For the first time since the country plunged into the Great Recession, Jackson County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate has dropped below 9 percent.
Figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an 8.9 percent unemployment rate during January, the first sub-9 percent reading since an 8.7 percent rate in September 2008. The jobless rate for January 2008 was 6.3 percent, but a year later it was entrenched in double-digits. One year ago, the county's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 10.4 percent.
"I don't know if it's so much of a milestone as it is part of a pattern of continued economic improvement in the region," said Tim Duy, an economics professor at the University of Oregon and the editor of the Oregon Economic Index "We've seen consistent movement in the right direction, which I think is good."
Employment typically contracts following the Christmas season and such was the case when payroll employment decreased by 3,740 in January. The civilian labor force declined 1,607 people from the previous year to 95,913.
That's to be expected, Duy said.
"We know demographically the primary reason for people leaving the labor force right now is retirement," he said. "If it's forced retirement earlier than you would like, that's bad. But retirement isn't necessarily bad."
Many of the jobs added during the busy fall and holiday retail season disappear in January, said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department.
Jackson County saw retail trade employment decline by 2,820 positions in January from the previous month, construction employment fell by 210 jobs, and manufacturing by 90 positions. However, manufacturing was up 310 jobs from a year earlier.
"Construction, leisure and hospitality, and business services are at their low point this time of the year," Tauer said.
Josephine County fell to 9.7 percent, well below the 11.6 percent figure recorded a year earlier.