County unemployment rate drops to 11.1%

Jackson County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate dipped in November to 11.1 percent from 11.5 percent in October.

More important, the unemployment rate was nearly 2 percentage points below the 13 percent rate reported a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Oregon Employment Department regional economist Guy Tauer said the number of people gainfully employed in Jackson County grew by 4,500 over the past year, while the civilian labor force grew by 1,600 people. The total number of people out of work tumbled by 2,400, reflecting the nearly 2 percentage-point decline in the jobless rate.

Jackson County has seen steady double-digit unemployment since November 2008, peaking at 13.1 percent in June of 2009.

"Definitely, we're heading in the right direction," Tauer said.

There were some dark spots amid the improvements. Instead of seeing more jobs created in November, as is typical historically, there were fewer.

On the heels of stronger than normal seasonally adjusted gains of 540 and 670 jobs in September and October, November came in with weaker numbers.

"Normally, we expect to gain about 170 jobs from October to November," Tauer said. "Instead we had a minus 820 in total nonfarm payroll, giving us a seasonally adjusted drop of 990."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated government agencies and schools were the biggest job shedders over the past year, losing 500 positions in the county. Other drags on the job sector included everything from a late start in winter recreational activities to a shift in retail shopping habits.

Online sales volume is on course to break previous records, said Joan McBee, an associate professor at Southern Oregon University School of Business. That means fewer sales and clerical jobs locally.

Although there was growth in the retail sector, the 280 additional hires in November weren't enough to overcome losses elsewhere.

"Retail sales are good overall," McBee said. "But when people are buying online, there are not as many retail sales people. It's the beginning of something new. We're never going to get rid of brick and mortar, but more sales are shifting to online."

Construction lost 60 jobs and manufacturing 20, respectively. Financial activities lost an estimated 90 jobs in November, declining to where it was a year earlier. Professional and business services lost an estimated 200 jobs over the month. Health care and social assistance, typically a stalwart in the local economy — shed 170 jobs, while leisure and hospitality knocked off 510 positions, including 300 of those in the accommodations and food services component.

Tauer said November is a lull month for the leisure and hospitality sector during the period after the curtain falls on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival season and the opening of the Mount Ashland ski area.

In neighboring Josephine County, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 12.1 percent in November, falling from 12.8 percent in October and 13.8 percent a year ago.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email

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