Jackson County payroll employment declined in July and it was the public sector that took the brunt of the hit.

Jackson County payroll employment declined in July and it was the public sector that took the brunt of the hit.

Total payroll employment declined by 1,890 jobs from June to July, the Employment Department reported Thursday, mostly due to seasonal reductions in state and local government education. That pushed Jackson County's unemployment rate up to 6.1 percent, following a 5.6 percent reading in June and a 6.0 percent showing in July 2006.

During the past 12 months, however, the county gained 1,320 jobs, for a growth rate of 1.5 percent. The county's civil work force was listed at 101,064 in July after reaching 102,557 in June. Total private employment in July was 73,380, 1,430 jobs ahead of June 2006.

Despite a continued slowdown in the housing market, construction employment rose by 140 jobs in July and is essentially unchanged from July 2006. Building permit data through June indicate some stabilization in residential construction, with year-to-date building permits through June nearly equal to the same period in 2006.

Manufacturing picked up 70 jobs in July, for a gain of 400 positions over the past 12 months. Gains in food products manufacturing have more than offset wood product manufacturing reductions

"I've seen a little bit of jump in inquiries for industrial space and for manufacturing," said Curt Burrill, a commercial real estate broker in Medford. "Several of them have been start ups or a new-to-the-area type of business. The interest level has gone up a bit after it had slowed down some from recent years."

Retail trade employment climbed by 130 over the month but still trails last year's level by 150. The professional and business services sector gained 40 jobs in July, and has overall growth of 100 jobs since July 2006. Health care and social assistance employment grew by 30 over the month and stands at 210 jobs above the July 2006 figure.

Leisure and hospitality topped the county's job growth both over the month and over the past year. Leisure and hospitality, including accommodations, food services, art, entertainment and recreation, added 190 jobs in July. The sector is 500 jobs ahead of July 2006. Regional economist Guy Tauer said strong job growth in food services and drinking places accounted for most of the over-the-year increase.

Government employment dropped by 2,520 in July, with losses in local government education and state education responsible for most of the month's losses. Over the past year total government employment is down by 110 jobs. Although there were gains in local government education and federal government jobs, those were more than offset by lower employment in the state education and non-education local government sectors, Tauer said.

Burrill, a former chairman of the Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce anticipates there will be improved numbers when the ripple effect of legislative activity kicks in.

"The state of Oregon is hiring 1,700 new people after this session," Burrill said. "I think there will definitely be an increase in government employment down here."

In Josephine County total payroll employment fell by 520 jobs as the unemployment rate nudged up to 7.1 percent, from 6.7 percent in previous month.