County jobless rate soars to 13.5%

Jackson County's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped to 13.5 percent in September, as an uncertain economy not only made it tough to find a job, but also prompted more people to look for work.

The unemployment rate rose from 12.7 percent in August of this year and 12.7 percent in September 2009. That leaves Jackson County's jobless rate significantly above the statewide rate, which was 10.6 percent in September.

Jackson County's work force grew during the past year to 104,060 in September, a gain of 2,660 from a year earlier, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Regional economist Guy Tauer said the larger labor force number isn't the result of people migrating to the Rogue Valley, rather it's indicative of more people looking for jobs as economic uncertainty continues to hang over their heads.

"Every single person under a roof is beating bush for a job," Tauer said. "They don't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines. Anyone who can is out looking for a job because times are so tough."

People are delaying retirements, they are uncertain of their savings and the value of their homes, retirement nest eggs and things like that. People are putting off retirement and staying in the labor force."

Thirteen of Oregon's 36 counties had higher unemployment rates than Jackson County in September, but only Deschutes County with its 15.5 percent jobless rate exceeded Jackson among the larger population areas. Deschutes and Jackson County have led the state in homes facing foreclosure-related actions.

"We're a little higher than the Portland area but similar to other outlying areas outside Portland," Tauer said of the unemployment rate. "So it's not like the grass is a whole lot greener on the other side of fence, unless you go to North Dakota or Wyoming where the housing bubble didn't have as big an impact."

With school beginning in September, payroll employment rose by 1,960 jobs over August, with gains in local education and retail trade accounting for most of the increase. Compared with a year ago, however, payroll employment was down by 290 jobs, which combined with the increase in job seekers to boost the overall unemployment rate.

Retail trade employment added 980 jobs during the month and has gained 140 positions in the past year. Construction lost another 60 positions in September and accounts for 430 fewer paychecks than a year earlier.

Professional and business services added 40 positions during September and had 130 employees more than a year ago. Manufacturing lost 140 jobs during the preceding 12 months.

Josephine County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 14.9 percent, up from August (14.3 percent) and September 2009 (14.7 percent).

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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