County jobless rate shows improvement

Jackson County's jobless rate dropped to 9.5 percent in May, following state and national trends.

The rate was slightly better than the 9.6 percent April showing and a substantial improvement over the 10.9 percent mark a year earlier.

The seasonally adjusted figure, compiled by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the jobless rate is 2 percent higher than state and national figures, but lower than neighboring Josephine County's 11.1 percent unemployment mark, which remained the same for the second month.

Jackson County's rate peaked at 13.1 percent in April and May 2009. The current rate is the lowest since October 2008, when it was 9.4 percent.

The federal report indicated that a declining labor force, rather than job creation, contributed to unemployment falling below double-digit levels.

A year ago, Jackson County's civilian labor force was gauged at 100,176, but last month there were 3,501 fewer workers. Of the 96,675 people in the labor force, an additional 670 found work.

Aging population and retirement have contributed to the workforce decline, said Oregon Employment Department regional economist Guy Tauer on Monday, citing a study reviewing the past decade.

"Then you have younger people opting to stay in school longer, so they are not actively looking for jobs," Tauer said.

In general, teenagers and young adults have had a hard time finding jobs during the economic recovery. Last year, teen unemployment was 24 percent.

"Younger people haven't seen their prospects improve that much," Tauer said. "With unemployment rates as high as they have been, employers can choose more experienced workers than they could a decade or two ago."

The only private sector industries seeing job losses in May were professional and business services, which saw a decline of 120 positions, and educational and health services, which fell by 40 spots.

Industries showing the largest estimated monthly increases were retail trade, which picked up 220 additional positions, along with leisure and hospitality, which tacked on 280 roles. Manufacturing produced 60 additional jobs in May.

Led by local government, total government employment gained 190 jobs in May.

Health care and social assistance saw the biggest year-over-year gains, adding 530 people to its payrolls. Manufacturing picked up 330 jobs, while accommodations and food services saw 290 new positions. Construction reflected a modest uptick in residential building over the past year, with 140 new jobs.

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