Regional economy improving

Regional economy improving

It's neither the worst of times, nor the best for Jackson County workers.

Gone — at least for now — is the specter of double-digit unemployment, but Southern Oregon still trails the state and national recovery rates.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics Monday reported Jackson County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 9.6 percent in June, a snippet above the 9.5 May rate, while the state rate was 7.9 percent and the nation came in at 7.6 percent.

It marked the fourth-straight month that Jackson County remained below double-digits after five years above 10 percent.

"The worst of high unemployment rates is in our rearview mirror at this point," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. "The question is how long?"

Tauer notes the historical jobless rate during the early 2000s bounced around in the 6 percent to 8 percent range.

"We've still been close to 10 percent for the past few months," he said. "One month doesn't make a trend, but it appears we plateaued through the second quarter."

Total nonfarm payroll employment grew 510 jobs between May and June, while adding 650 positions over June 2012. The private sector added 1,050 jobs during the 12-month span, while government employment fell by 400.

Construction and manufacturing picked up during the past month, while health care and social assistance firms upped their payrolls.

The civilian labor force remained well-off the 100,000 mark, as it has in recent months. A year ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 101,132 people were in the county's labor contingent.

"There are some different forces playing on the economy right now," Tauer said. "The U.S. economy is picking up a bit, but forecasters who thought there might be continued stronger growth are pulling back on their forecasts for the third and fourth quarters.

"They're looking at changes in taxes that affect take-home pay, the price of gas and the uncertainty of the world economy, particularly in China and Europe. All those things make the future a bit cloudier, so that puts a damper on hiring and expectations."

During the past month, Tauer said, Jackson County construction and manufacturing employment rose by 120 and 110 jobs, respectively. Mining and logging, wholesale trade, and other services chipped in with 20 jobs during the month. Leisure and hospitality hiring expanded, adding 260 jobs in June. Government employment showed a net gain of 30 jobs, while health care and social assistance employment fell by 30 posts compared with the previous month.

Over the past year, however, construction was up 130 jobs, manufacturing tacked on 330 additional employees, health care and social assistance picked up 620 positions, and accommodations and food services delivered 330 new paychecks.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at Edge.

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