Hard-hit Douglas County may see more unemployment

ROSEBURG — In one of the counties hardest hit by the run-up in Oregon's unemployment rate, there's more bad news on the way.

Douglas County's unemployment rate spiked in October as local industries and businesses shed more than 1,000 jobs that were available during the same month last year.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate jumped to 10.4 percent from 9.2 percent in September, the highest October rate since 1998 and well above the state average of 7.3 percent.

"I have never seen a faster increase in the unemployment rate," said Rob Abbott, a work force analyst for the Oregon Employment Department who focuses primarily on Coos, Curry and Douglas counties, all traditionally reliant on timber and logging.

The figures were released almost seven weeks after Bayliner Marine in Wilbur announced it will cease operations in December, effectively cutting about 175 jobs from the local work force.

"That's not showing up yet," Abbott said.

But the layoff of nearly 120 workers by Roseburg Forest Products earlier this month in three Douglas County plants may be showing up already in the jobless numbers, he said.

October's unemployment rate showed 4,447 workers jobless out of a work force of 47,711.

The state doled out nearly $31 million in 114,026 payments to unemployed workers between November 2007 and last month, Abbott said, roughly 76 percent more than for the same period the previous year.

"In the last three years there have been considerable increases in the number of unemployment payments made in this county," he said.

Douglas County ranks third in the state for unemployment numbers.

"It's not too surprising, but regrettable just the same," said Norm Gershon, president of Umpqua Training & Employment.

Gershon said the UT&E offices in Roseburg have been busy lately helping former Roseburg Forest Products workers and Bayliner employees find new work or skills.

He said the slowing economy is affecting sectors that normally are safe from national financial downturns, such as restaurants and car dealerships.

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