Job growth has slowed in Jackson county, even as new jobs continue to be created.

Job growth has slowed in Jackson county, even as new jobs continue to be created.

Recently compiled population figures show the county grew by 1.3 percent during 2006, adding 2,500 to the local population and creating more demand in health services as well as business and professional services.

Jackson County's payroll employment rose by 190 jobs in February, pushing the over-the-year increase to 830. But population increases combined with declines in construction, manufacturing and natural resources employment nudged the February jobless rate to 7.7 percent, up from 7.6 percent in January and up a full percentage point from the 6.7 percent reported in February 2007.

"Typically January and February are the highest months of unemployment in Jackson County," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist for the Employment Department. "It's a slower time for construction and hiring for tourism-related jobs hasn't ramped up yet."

During the past 19 years, the average February jobless rate for the county has been 8.3 percent, reaching a high-water mark of 10 percent in 1992 and falling as low as 6.7 percent a year go.

Since February 2007, the largest decline occurred in construction, which dropped by 180 jobs. Tauer said transportation, financial activities and warehousing and utilities lost about 50 jobs each during the year.

While Jackson County benefited from a growing population, neighboring counties are seeing a slower pattern. Statewide, the population grew 1.5 percent. Josephine County, which saw a population growth slide from 1.1 percent to 0.3 percent during 2006, saw its unemployment rolls hit 9.9 percent. Coos and Curry counties, meanwhile, saw population declines.

"Population growth creates a demand for goods and services," Tauer said.

Even with a seasonal decline in retail trade employment, which dropped by 330 jobs last month, the sector is running 300 jobs ahead of where it was a year ago in Jackson County.

"Sportsman's Warehouse (in Medford) and the Super Wal-Mart in Eagle Point weren't here a year ago," Tauer said. "Those are substantial big box employers with a lot of jobs."

Professional and business services employment added 160 new jobs, partly in response to the need for tax preparation help.

Educational and health services added 100 jobs, while health care and social assistance added 180 new jobs. Accommodations and food services posted the greatest increase of any sector, up by 330 jobs in the past 12 months. Tauer noted the Oregon Shakespeare Festival season begins its season in late February, which boosts leisure and hospitality counts. That sector was 100 jobs on the plus side last month and has an overall increase of 260 jobs over the past 12 months.

Jobs in state education rose by 150 in February, typical for the time of the year. Local education also added jobs, increasing by 60 over the month and 190 during the past year.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.