Jackson County jobless rate drops to 10%

Four years of double-digit unemployment in Jackson County may be on the verge of ending.

The local jobless rate soared above the 10 percent mark in December 2008 and hasn't retreated into single digits for 52 months.

The latest figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Jackson County with a seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 10 percent. That is down from 10.3 percent in February and 10.6 percent a year ago. It's also well above the state's 8.2 percent unemployment mark and the 7.6 percent national rate.

Of Oregon's six Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which are the state's six most populated regions, Jackson County possessed the second-highest jobless rate. Only Central Oregon's Deschutes County was worse at 10.4 percent.

All told, the county had 60 more people at work in March than in February, and it recorded 460 more nonfarm positions than in March 2012.

"Over the year, gains were confined to the private sector," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with Oregon Employment Department. "Construction employment may be finally emerging from its long retrenchment."

Construction saw 140 more positions, while manufacturing has added 90 jobs since March 2012. In the most recent month, construction had picked up 80 jobs and manufacturing added 70.

"The regulators have eased up restrictions on bank lending," said Fred Dickson, an economist with DA Davidson. "Up to now, smaller businesses considering possible expansion have been shut out. Now with credit-card loans and bank lending, they are finding it slightly easier to get capital. We still haven't seen a dramatic expansion of loan portfolios, but it doesn't take much to finance inventory and payrolls allowing hiring expansion."

That kind of lending, he said, bolsters home and commercial construction.

"If you keep adding the small pieces together," Dickson said. "That's helpful."

Leisure and hospitality employment continued seasonal gains, adding 140 jobs.

"We're seeing a pickup in commercial services," Dickson said.

Health care and social assistance employment grew by 50 during the month, while government employment had a net gain of 60 jobs over the month. Jobs in professional and business services fell by 220 positions, and retail trade declined by 110 jobs over the month.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

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