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September and October Statewide Unemployment Rate
Oregon Unemployment Rate Falls to Five-Year Low
Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in October, its low point for the year. The rate was 7.8 percent in September and 8.1 percent in August.

Industry Payroll Employment (Establishment Survey Data)
Oregon cut 500 jobs in October, after adding 3,300 in September and 5,600 in August. These payroll employment figures are seasonally adjusted estimates from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Taking the last few months as a whole, the latest labor market numbers reflect a gradually accelerating pace of economic expansion in Oregon, with overall modest employment gains during the most recent 12 months. Since October 2012, seasonally adjusted payroll employment is up 30,700
jobs or 1.9 percent. The private sector grew fairly rapidly, expanding 33,300 jobs or 2.5 percent. This gain was offset by a decline in government of 2,600 jobs, or -0.9 percent.

Over-the-year gains were strongest in construction (+6,500 jobs, or 9.3%) and in two major industries that each grew by 3.6 percent: professional and business services (+7,000 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (+6,200 jobs). Financial activities ( 1,100 jobs or -1.2 percent) was the only major private-sector industry to lose jobs in the past 12 months.

Construction stands out as an engine of economic growth this year. Gains in construction and residential investment have been boosting national gross domestic product in recent quarters and the job gains in Oregon have provided a boost to Oregon’s economy through increased construction wages as well as the other direct and indirect links that result from increased construction activity.

Oregon’s seasonally adjusted employment in construction grew by 2,100 in September and then added an additional 800 jobs in October. This measure of employment stood at 76,400 in October, which was a substantial gain from the post-recession low of 67,200 during several months of 2010. Recent job gains in construction are evidence of a pickup in demand for residential building. Construction employment averaged below 70,000 for each of the past three calendar years.

Specialty trade contractors gained 3,600 jobs since October 2012. It employed 49,900 in October and is the largest of construction’s three component industries.

The second component industry, construction of buildings, employed 20,700 in October, a gain of 3,100 over the year. This rapid rate of growth puts the industry well above October employment levels seen in the prior three years, and on par with October headcounts of 1995 through 2003.

The heavy and civil engineering construction industry has seen no job gains and has not been contributing to construction’s recent expansion. This component industry employed 9,300 in October, about the same level as in October of the two prior years, and more than 1,000 jobs below any October figure from 1992 to 2010.

The BLS estimates that leisure and hospitality pulled back over the past two months from its recent rapid growth rate. Restaurants, bars, motels and other establishments cut 1,800 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in September, and then added back 600 in October.

Leisure and hospitality added a total of 6,200 jobs since October 2012. This is an industry operating at near-record levels of employment. The 178,100 October jobs are up from the recent low point of 160,800 in December 2009, and even above the pre-recession peak of close to 175,000 in early 2008.

Government employment continued to lag the rapidly growing private-sector. Federal government dropped 800 jobs since October 2012. Local government cut 2,600 over that period, with each of its three component industries down. State government did add 500 jobs over the year; at 81,600, it was close to the same October figure as in the prior three years.

Financial activities is the one major private-sector industry to cut jobs over the past year. This industry includes banks, real estate firms, and insurance companies. The finance and insurance portion cut 1,100 jobs since October 2012, while the real estate industry was up slightly. Overall, financial activities, has been on a downward trajectory for more than six years. What appeared to be an upturn during the first half of the year now has reversed itself, with the current seasonally adjusted employment figure of 89,100 at its lowest level since late 1996.

The BLS estimates of monthly job gains and losses are based on a survey of businesses. These preliminary estimates are subject to later revision.

Hours and Earnings
(Establishment Survey Data)
The average workweek for Oregon’s private-sector payroll employees was 33.6 hours in October and 34.7 hours in September. In October 2012, the average was 33.4 hours.

The average workweek for Oregon construction workers shot higher in recent months. At 38.5 hours in September and 38.0 in October, this measure of activity is much higher than the comparable figure over the prior four years. Coupled with rising employment levels, the elevated weekly hours figures indicate strengthening demand for construction labor.

In October, the average wage was $22.70 per hour for Oregon’s private-sector payroll employees, up from $22.65 in September. Wages have increased 47 cents, or 2.1 percent, from October 2012 when the average was $22.23. These wage gains indicate that hourly earnings power is rising at or slightly faster than consumer price inflation.

(Household Survey Data)
Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in October and 7.8 percent in September. The national rate was 7.3 percent in October and 7.2 percent in September.

In October, 135,298 Oregonians were unemployed. This was 22,322 fewer individuals than in October 2012 when 157,620 Oregonians were unemployed.

Oregon’s seasonally adjusted labor force participation rate continued to decline in October, reaching 61.2 percent. This was a new record low for this series, which started in January 1976. This measure of the health of the labor market tracks the number of employed plus the unemployed as a share of Oregon’s working age population. At the national level, the participation rate has also declined in recent years, and is a measure being watched carefully by Federal Reserve policy makers as they gauge the extent to which the economy is operating at full employment.

Issues relating to the declines in this metric are discussed in a recent Employment Department report, Oregon’s Falling Labor Force Participation: A Story of Baby Boomers, Youth, and the Great Recession, found here: http://www.qualityinfo.org/pubs/lfpr.pdf

Next Press Releases
The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the October county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Monday, November 25th and the statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for November on Tuesday, December 17th.

The Oregon Employment Department published a new data series with the release of April nonfarm payroll employment estimates. This official Oregon series is revised quarterly by using employment counts from employer tax records. All department publications, such as news releases, monthly Oregon Labor Trends and local labor trends, will use the new data series unless noted otherwise. The department will continue to make the original nonfarm payroll employment data series available; these data are produced by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and are revised annually.
Analysts at the Oregon Employment Department will use employer tax records as soon as they become available each quarter to adjust the official Oregon series. This revision resets the monthly estimates to the correct level and should reduce the drift that can occur with estimates that are revised annually. On November 19th, the second-quarter 2013 tax records data was used to update the official Oregon series. At this time, data were revised back to January 2013 to incorporate the new second-quarter data as well as updated first-quarter data. Both the official Oregon series and the official BLS series are available on the department’s website, QualityInfo.org.

For many years, monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas were developed by Oregon Employment Department economists. In March 2011, responsibility for the monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas shifted to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The estimates developed by BLS are more heavily dependent on the sample of businesses and less reliant on knowledge of local economic events. They are also likely to demonstrate increased month-to-month variability.

Comments or questions should be directed to Graham Slater, Administrator of the Oregon Employment Department's Workforce and Economic Research Division, at (503) 947-1212.