State jobless rate stays same

PORTLAND — The state says Oregon's unemployment rate was unchanged last month as job growth ground nearly to a halt in the last third of 2012.

The jobless rate for December was reported Tuesday at 8.4 percent. A year earlier, it was 9 percent.

The state Employment Department said preliminary estimates showed the state added 2,000 jobs in December.

But such estimates frequently change. The agency said Tuesday that revised estimates showed a loss of 900 jobs in November when preliminary estimates had showed a gain of 600.

The agency said that given small job losses from September, October and November, the December gains meant employment was nearly flat in the last four months of 2012 — in contrast to a gain of 20,000 jobs in the first eight months.

Broken down demographically, the figures show the average unemployment rate for whites in Oregon was 8.7 percent, for Latinos it was 11.4 percent and for African-Americans it was 18.4 percent. That's close to a 10 percentage point gap between Oregon's white and black job-seekers.

Michael Alexander of the Urban League of Portland says he's concerned about making sure the economic recovery is equitable. "This is not something that we can allow the city or the state or communities of concern to be comfortable with. We've got to find ways of approaching this very differently."

On the positive side, Oregon employment economist Nick Beleiciks says the average unemployment rate dropped a small amount for each demographic from 2011 to 2012.

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