State's jobless rate jumps to 5.2 percent

PORTLAND — Oregon's unemployment rate has climbed above 5 percent for the first time since January, driven by an increase in people joining the labor force, figures released Tuesday show.

Though the jobless rate jumped to 5.2 percent in July — up from 4.8 percent in June — the state added 3,800 jobs, a record 49th consecutive month of gains. The labor force hit a record high of 2.08 million, an indication more people are seeking work in a state that for the past year has been adding jobs at a faster pace than the national average.

"The unemployment rate had recently been at record-low levels, March, April and May were at 4.5 percent, an indication of a very tight job market," said Nick Beleiciks, state employment economist. "And that draws people into the labor force."

A total of 1.97 million Oregonians were employed in July, an increase from 1.87 million at this time last year, when the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent.

Health care and companies that provide social assistance, such as daycare providers, added the most jobs in July. Professional and business services also had a strong July, as did leisure and hospitality.

Manufacturing and construction lagged, according to the statistics released by the state Employment Department.

The latter was a surprise because construction has been a star performer for the past year, adding 7,500 jobs since July 2015.

Beleiciks said the slow month might be caused by the timing in which construction companies added workers. For instance, if they hired the crews they needed earlier in the year, then they didn't have to hire as many workers as they usually do in July.

"I think this July number could be a blip," he said. "Construction companies still hired in July, just not as much as they usually would in July."

Another unemployment measure, known as U-6, increased to 10.9 percent. The rate, which was at 12 percent last July, includes discouraged workers who stopped looking as well as part-time workers who want but can't get full-time jobs.

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