Oregon’s Unemployment Rate Hits Record Low

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Oregon’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in August, which was Oregon’s lowest unemployment rate since comparable records began in 1976. Oregon’s July unemployment rate was 3.9 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in both July and August.

The number of Oregonians unemployed shrank in recent months. In August, the number of unemployed people dropped to 80,500, which is down from 88,000 in August 2017. The low number of unemployed reflects a very tight job market. Many people just entering the labor force are getting snapped up by employers. In August, there were only about 20,000 new entrants to the labor force who were unemployed; this was only one-third the number of such “unemployed entrants” seen in the early 2010s. This means that there are far fewer Oregonians just entering the workforce who can’t find a job. Meanwhile in August, of the unemployed Oregonians, 28,000 had lost their job—a historically low level, given that in 2009 there were five times the number of unemployed due to job loss. 

In August, Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment grew by a modest 900 jobs, following a revised gain of 3,400 jobs in July. Monthly gains in August were concentrated in construction, which added 800 jobs, and trade, which added 800 jobs in wholesale trade and 700 jobs in retail trade. These gains were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality (-1,100 jobs) and government (-600 jobs).

Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment increased by 42,000 jobs, or 2.2 percent, since August 2017. More than one-quarter of payroll employment growth was in the construction industry, which added 11,400 jobs, expanding by 11.6 percent. Over the year, no other industry has grown nearly as fast as construction. Next in line are four major industries that each grew slightly slower than 3 percent: manufacturing (+5,500 jobs, or 2.9%); professional and business services (+6,900 jobs, or 2.8%); leisure and hospitality (+5,700 jobs, or 2.8%); and health care and social assistance (+6,400 jobs, or 2.7%). Rapid growth across the industries isn’t universal, as several industries remained close to their year-ago job totals, including wholesale trade (700 jobs, or 0.9%); retail trade (+1,200 jobs, or 0.6%); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+300 jobs, or 0.5%); government (no change in jobs, or 0.0%); and information (-200 jobs, or -0.6%).

Source: Oregon Employment Department

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