Job-seekers attendg the Career Expo on Wednesday in Portland. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, the highest level since January. - AP

Oregon jobs report is gloomy

PORTLAND — Oregon's economic recovery got rockier in February, with employers hiring fewer workers than they generally do at this time of the year, the state Employment Department said Tuesday.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the state actually shed more than 6,000 jobs in the month, while the unemployment rate stayed at 8.8 percent — 13th-highest in the nation. Construction and retailing contributed greatly to the losses.

Normally in February, Oregon employers would add about 13,000 to payrolls, according to the Employment Department's statistics.

Overall, they added only about half that amount. The result, on a seasonally adjusted basis, is a loss of 6,400 jobs.

"The large losses were surprising," said the state's labor economist, Nick Beleiciks.

The report suggests that, at best, the state's economy remains in a herky-jerky recovery with little job growth. Beleiciks said the February report followed a nice gain in jobs the month before, and he wouldn't read more than is warranted into one month's numbers.

"What we need to do is wait a few more months to see where this trend is taking us," he said at a news conference.

The unemployment rate has been edging down over the past two years, as the state follows generally national patterns of recovery.

But, in part, the fall in Oregon's number reflects people leaving the job market rather than an economy that's beefing up payrolls.

"Over the year, we haven't seen very much job growth," Beleiciks said.

In February, the Employment Department said, about 8,000 people were working in residential construction, about 500 fewer than in the past two Februarys and half as many as in 2007, before the Great Recession.

The department's statistics show an expected gain of 600 jobs in all construction categories in February, but this year employers actually cut 1,400, for a loss of 2,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The department also said that wholesale trade shed 400 jobs and retail trade 3,600, larger than expected losses.

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