Jobless rate stays above 13 percent

Jackson County's unemployment figure in August topped the 13 percent mark for the third straight month.

The 13.2 percent seasonally adjusted jobless rate overshadowed monthly employment gains as the local work force continued to grow.

The Oregon Employment Department reported 90,109 people were employed in the county in August, up from 89,441 the previous month. But that was 4,058 fewer than in August 2008. Meanwhile, Jackson County's workforce grew to 103,788 in August, up from 102,437 a year earlier when the jobless rate was 8.1 percent

"We're at least stable right now," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Employment Department. "Things aren't continuing to get worse, but the consensus overall is that unemployment may increase on a seasonally adjusted basis."

In August, retail trade employment began its seasonal hiring upturn, picking up 360 jobs. Despite the gain, the sector stood at 590 jobs below the August 2008 total.

Leisure and hospitality employment fell by 50 jobs in August, leaving those industries with 420 fewer jobs over the past year.

"We didn't see the typical run-up that sometimes carries through August," Tauer said. "It's been a slower season, so employers thought they could cut a few positions a little earlier than the past. The good news in Ashland is that Shakespeare ticket sales were up, but at the Britt Festival, ticket sales were a little softer."

Although commercial air travel in and out of the Rogue Valley was up in August, Tauer said that's not necessarily a plus for the local hospitality industry.

"A lot of people could be traveling for business as well as family matters," he said. "So it doesn't always equate to what's happening on the employment side."

Health care and social assistance employment added 70 jobs last month and continues to show year-over-year gains.

"We're not seeing 3 percent, 4 percent or 5 percent gains we've seen in the past," Tauer said. "But it's still one of most recession-resistant sectors statewide and locally."

Sectors showing the largest job losses during the past 12 months were construction and manufacturing, each losing more than 900 jobs. Local industries also showing appreciable job losses since August 2008 included wholesale trade, down by 110 positions; transportation, warehousing and utilities, off by 80 jobs; and mining and logging, trailing a year ago by 90 positions.

"The future for this region is a little more difficult to tell," Tauer said. "Until some of the broader changes in the economy take hold, our region may lag the rest of the state coming out of this recession. Construction, housing and manufacturing related to housing are still in the doldrums. So we can still see high unemployment rates continuing for the next few months."

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

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