Oregon jobless rate nearly unchanged for November

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2009 5:17 PM

Oregon's unemployment rate barely budged in November as the state headed for the end of 2009 with hopes for a recovery but some job losses in key industries.

The jobless rate was 11.1 percent, nearly unchanged from a revised figure of 11.2 percent for October and 11.3 percent in September.

The three months mark the lowest unemployment rates since reaching 10.7 percent in February, and are down about a full percentage point from a high of 12.2 percent in May.

Nationally, the jobless rate edged downward just slightly in November to 10 percent after hitting 10.2 percent in October, the highest level in 26 years.

Oregon did suffer some job losses in November, with seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment declining by 4,600 jobs following a loss of 1,800 jobs in October.

The biggest losers in November were government, construction, financial activities and a small sector of the service industry, according to figures released Monday by the Oregon Employment Department.

Those losses were partially offset by gains in professional business services, manufacturing and leisure and hospitality, Amy Vander Vliet, the department's Portland regional economist, told a news conference Monday.

Retail hiring also showed improvement, especially compared with last year, "but not as strong as historically we've seen," Vander Vliet said.

She said the flat jobless rate near 11 percent for the past three months suggested some improvement overall, even though the state has lost 88,300 jobs over the past year.

"We hovered around 12 percent for five months between March and August, so the last three months have seen a significant decline in our jobless rate," Vander Vliet said.

Another reason for the improvement is a slight decline in the state's labor force participation rate _ the number of people who are employed or are looking for a job.

Vander Vliet said that from January through May, the participation rate was more than 66 percent but has dropped to just over 64 percent in October and November. The decline is likely due to factors that include more people going to school, increased confidence in retirement savings, discouraged workers or spouses no longer seeking jobs, she said.

Vander Vliet also noted Oregon has closed the gap between the statewide unemployment rate and the national rate, although Oregon ranked seventh highest in the country for October.

"The gap is one of narrowest we've seen in almost a year," Vander Vliet said.

In November, 211,424 Oregonians were unemployed compared to 152,901 in November 2008.