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Oregon Statewide Unemployment Rate for February 2012
David Cooke, Economist (503) 947-1272
Oregon’s Payroll Employment Dropped by 6,400 in February
While the Unemployment Rate Held Steady at 8.8 Percent

Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in February, which was unchanged from January. Meanwhile, the U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in both January and February.
Industry Payroll Employment (Establishment Survey Data)
Oregon’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment fell 6,400 in February, following a revised gain of 3,700 in January. February job losses were largest in construction ( 2,000 jobs); trade, transportation and utilities ( 2,000); and professional and business services ( 1,500). None of the major industries saw gains of more than 300 jobs. 

The payroll employment numbers for February are preliminary estimates produced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. As is true each month, the estimates are revised at the time of the next press release as additional information comes in from late-reporting businesses on the establishment survey. Furthermore, the estimates are revised each year based on data from all employers reporting their quarterly tax reports.
In February, construction cut 1,400 jobs when a gain of 600 is the normal seasonal movement. Heavy and civil engineering construction cut 500 jobs. Specialty trade contractors cut 1,200, as each of its four components shed jobs.
Residential building construction has yet to see a substantial upturn, despite the economic recovery being more than two and a half years along. It employed only 8,100 in February, which was about 500 jobs below its comparable levels in February of the prior two years.
This industry, which is comprised of many smaller firms that build homes and apartments, averaged close to 10,000 jobs in 1995 through 2003. Then, during the housing boom, it surged to annual employment of nearly 16,000 by 2007. In contrast, the first two months of 2012 put the industry on track for the lowest winter employment totals since 1994.
Nonresidential construction employed 7,000 in February, and like residential construction, it too has not expanded substantially from its low of this business cycle. Last month’s employment was only about 400 above its February totals from one and two years ago, but was still more than 2,000 jobs below its winter figures of 2006 through 2008.
Specialty trade contractors employed 40,400 in February. This was very close to its lowest employment figure since the mid-1990s. Only a few winter months over the past couple of years have been below 40,000 for this industry.
Looking at seasonally adjusted employment data, February’s loss in construction came as a surprise given the slowly expanding trends in the industry throughout most of 2011, when it added 3,800 such jobs. But both January and February 2012 saw declines in construction, putting February’s figure of 68,300 just 300 jobs above February 2011.
Trade, transportation, and utilities cut 4,100 jobs in February, when a loss of half that is the normal seasonal pattern. Larger than normal losses in wholesale trade (-400 jobs) and retail trade ( 3,600) were the primary reasons for February’s lackluster performance.
The subpar performance in this broad industry group retraced a spike upward in January’s seasonally adjusted jobs figures. February’s figure puts the industry back on the track of its slow, long-term gains seen over the past two years. Each of the three components of the broader industry have seen their seasonally adjusted job totals growing moderately and fairly consistently since reaching a post-recession trough close to December 2009. Job gains since then have been as follows: wholesale trade (+1,800 jobs, or 2.5%); retail trade (+4,500 jobs, or 2.5%); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (+1,300 jobs, or 2.5%). Coincidentally, each of the three components is up exactly 2.5 percent over that 26-month period—December 2009 through February 2012.
Professional and business services added only 800 jobs, when a gain of 2,300 is the normal seasonal pattern for February. Most industries within the broad category were relatively flat for the month. The exception was professional and technical services, which added 900 jobs in February. This industry, which includes law firms, engineering services, and computer systems design, has fully recovered its employment following the recessionary downturn. In fact, February’s employment total of 74,900 tied the record high employment figure, which was also reached in April and October of 2011.

Hours and Earnings
(Establishment Survey Data)
The average workweek for Oregon manufacturing production workers dropped sharply over the past two months. In December, these workers averaged 41.0 hours per week, while by February, the average fell to 39.4 hours, putting the workweek close to its 2011 average.
Average earnings of all private-sector payroll employees in Oregon dipped slightly to $22.24 per hour in February from $22.39 in January. The February figure was up 49 cents per hour, or 2.3 percent, from February 2011.

(Household Survey Data)
The national unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.3 percent in February. Oregon’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.8 percent in February. The difference between the Oregon and the U.S. unemployment rates was not statistically significant.

The latest figures indicate that Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has generally been on a declining trend for the past two and a half years, after reaching a high point of 11.6 percent in May and June 2009. At 8.8 percent in February, it has not been lower since November 2008, when Oregon’s rate was 8.4 percent.
In February, 192,932 Oregonians were unemployed. This is 16,118 fewer individuals than in February 2011 when 209,050 Oregonians were unemployed.

Next Press Releases
The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the February county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, March 27th and the statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for March on Tuesday, April 17th.

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.

For the complete version of the news release, including tables and graphs, visit: www.QualityInfo.org/pressrelease.
If you need this release in the Spanish language, please contact Loretta Gallegos at 503-947-1794.
For help finding jobs and training resources, visit one of the state's WorkSource Oregon Centers or go to: www.WorkSourceOregon.org.
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