The local unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent in March, up from 7.7 percent in February and 6.3 percent in March 2007. The number of unemployed in the labor force rose from 6,312 in March 2007 to 8,109 in March 2008.

The local unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent in March, up from 7.7 percent in February and 6.3 percent in March 2007. The number of unemployed in the labor force rose from 6,312 in March 2007 to 8,109 in March 2008.

Jackson County employers continue to create new jobs, but not fast enough to keep pace with a growing workforce.

Oregon Employment Department estimates show 410 positions were added to payrolls in March and there were 370 more people working than in March 2007. However, the county workforce totaled 103,073, up more than 2,000 over the previous year.

Employment gains came in leisure and hospitality, health care and social assistance, and local government education, regional economist Guy Tauer said.

Construction employment remained flat, leaving the year-to-year loss at 180 jobs. Manufacturing job counts fell by 70 for the month, mostly due to a decline in wood products employment, Tauer said. That sector was also 180 jobs below where it was a year ago. Retail trade employment slipped by 60 jobs, but the sector remained 60 jobs to the good over the previous 12 months. Professional and business services posted a gain of 30 in March, and were also up for the year, rising by 250 jobs. Health care and social assistance continued their long-term upward trend, with a gain of 50 jobs in March contributing to the yearlong increase of 260 jobs.

"Health care is showing again it's recession proof and continued its long-term trend," said Ainoura Ouseenbec, with the Employment Department in Medford. "There have been some serious changes, but Jackson County is still in good shape if it's measured by employment numbers."

Leisure and hospitality gained 220 jobs in March, 140 of those in the accommodations and food services component.

"We've added a couple of new hotels and there's an anticipation of a strong tourist seasons," Ouseenbec said. "So far that sector is looking good and is balancing out manufacturing and construction declines."

The public sector picked up steam, adding 20 federal government positions, 60 in state education and 100 in local government schools.

Neighboring Josephine County saw its unemployment rate climb from 9.3 percent to 9.5 percent last month.

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