Jobless rate hits 1 in 8 local workers

One in eight Jackson County residents considered to be part of the work force was jobless in April, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Figures released Monday by the state showed a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 12.4 percent, up from 11.7 percent in March but slightly less than the 12.9 percent reported a year ago.

With little movement in the unemployment rate, the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty, said regional economic analyst Guy Tauer. "It's a glass that's bouncing around, jiggling in the middle."

The county's total payroll employment rose by 330 jobs in April over March, but the growing number of people looking for work kept the unemployment rate in double figures.

"Normally, we would have gained 460 jobs this time of the year," Tauer said. "That shows up in the rate."

While Oregon showed its best March-to-April gain in job production in two years, Jackson County didn't.

"There's a continuing softness in manufacturing," Tauer said. "The index of manufacturing activity has been rising nationally for six to eight months, but we haven't seen those gains locally. Perhaps it's because we don't have the right mix for what is growing. For example, we don't have lot of employment in solar chip fabrication plants such as you see in the northern part of the state."

Seasonal hiring in construction along with leisure and hospitality gains contributed to the monthly job growth. Federal government employment grew by 120 jobs, thanks to Census Bureau hiring.

Year-over-year, the county recorded a loss of 920 jobs, a decline of 1.2 percent. Construction increased 60 jobs due to gains typically seen as warmer weather returns. But 510 fewer were employed in construction than in April 2009.

Tauer said that in April 2006 there were 5,700 people on construction payrolls in Jackson County. That number has dwindled to 2,700.

"That's quite a loss over four years," Tauer said.

Manufacturing declined by 40 jobs from March to April as that sector's downward trend continued. In the span of three years, manufacturing employment has fallen from 7,700 to 5,700 jobs.

"Construction and manufacturing have felt the brunt of the downturn," Tauer said. "Spending from those industries trickles out into retail and service sectors. As jobs are cut, people are spending less and holding back on purchases that affect other industries such as auto and furniture and they're not spending as much in restaurants and recreational activities."

Professional and business services posted a gain of 110 positions. Leisure and hospitality picked up 160 jobs over the month, 140 of those in accommodations and food services.

In Josephine County, the jobless rate hit 14 percent last month, up from 13.7 percent in March.

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

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