Many workers hired for holiday retail and shipping activity fell from the ranks of the employed in January, keeping Jackson County's jobless rate in double digits.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that payroll employment in the county fell by nearly 4,000 jobs in January, leaving a seasonally adjusted 10.4 percent unemployment rate — the same as it was in December.
"January is typically the low point in the Medford employment cycle," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department, "What happened was that we saw stronger hiring than expected in December."
In neighboring Josephine County, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 11.7 percent, slightly higher than the 11.6 rate in December and the same as last January.
As expected, the local retail trade employment swooned in January, with 2,790 jobs going away, leaving the sector with 150 fewer positions than in January 2012 despite the opening of Northgate Centre Marketplace.
"It wasn't just one sector where we saw weakness; we just didn't see the over-the-year increase we thought we might see based on the showing through the last part of 2012," Tauer said.
For example, auto parts and auto dealers saw a decline of 100 positions late in the year.
The potential silver lining was a year-over-year gain of 560 nonfarm payroll jobs from January 2012 when the jobless rate was 11 percent.
Although there are hints that residential and commercial construction will pick up in coming months, construction fell by 210 jobs in January and provided 50 fewer people with employment than a year ago. Manufacturing dropped 50 positions in January, but is running 190 jobs ahead of year ago.
Transportation, warehousing and utilities, aided by holiday shipping hiring, shed 150 jobs in January. Tauer said couriers and messengers providing intercity and local delivery of parcels, were among those whose positions ended after the holidays.
Although there was a short-term decline in professional and business services employment, the sector is 90 jobs ahead year-over-year. Health care and social assistance lost 80 jobs in January, but still remains stronger than in early 2012 with an additional 370 people at work.
While there are higher-skilled positions that remained unfilled in some pockets of the local economy, workers in less skilled arenas are hunkering down because there are fewer opportunities.
"Typically, we see job movement in a three-to-five-year cycle," said Kristi Mishell, an employment consultant with Southern Oregon Staffing in Grants Pass. "We're not seeing that. Part of it is the economy and part of it is companies not being able to pay attractive wages. Employees are going to stay in their current job because there is no guarantee they if they leave their job that in two weeks or a month they can pick up another one."