Jackson County's unemployment status remained virtually the same in July as in June, prompting hope that the worst has passed but also an acknowledgment that no quick turnaround is likely.

Jackson County's unemployment status remained virtually the same in July as in June, prompting hope that the worst has passed but also an acknowledgment that no quick turnaround is likely.

The Oregon Employment Department's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate released Monday showed a slight decline, from 13.5 percent to 13.2 percent in July. The county's total payroll employment fell by 2,230 jobs in July, mostly because of seasonal declines in the local schools sector.

"We're not much better or much worse than we've been in the last three or four months with unemployment in the 13 to 14 percent range," said regional economist Guy Tauer. "There's hope because we've seen the stock market going up and fewer bad numbers in the gross national product. Eight to 12 months ago, things were getting worse at a quickening pace. Now things aren't deteriorating like they were and we're not seeing large layoffs."

Despite the glimmer of hope, unemployment remains far above the 7.5 percent recorded in July 2008.

During the past 12 months, the county lost 3,300 payroll jobs as most industries showed employment declines. Those that did manage to add jobs over the year did so at a slow pace. In July, construction added 40 jobs, not enough to make a dent in the full-year decline of 920 positions.

Tauer said Southern Oregon will likely trail the rest of the country exiting the recession.

"Every recession is different to some degree," Tauer said. "The last recession, back in 2001 to 2002, didn't hit Southern Oregon as much as northern Oregon. We had one year of flat employment growth. This time, Southern Oregon and Bend have been impacted in a lot of sectors that benefited from all that growth in the early 2000s. It's been felt more because there was such a run-up of construction, housing, buying and flipping and all of that."

Retail trade also posted a monthly gain, up 140 jobs from June, but as with other sectors remained below a year ago, dropping 560 positions in that time. Tauer said the decline has been widespread, from big-box retailers to mom-and-pop storefronts.

"Economists say the consumer will not be pulling us out of this recession," he said. "There is a lot of retail trade employment, so we are a bit more vulnerable. We're a hub serving a much larger area than just Jackson County. So we may struggle for a while longer."

Leisure and hospitality employment continued a seasonal climb by 50 jobs. Again, that masked a longer-term downturn.

"Things are matching the lowered expectations," Tauer said. "Going into the summer, people were thinking we would be down 5 to 15 percent from last year. People were planning for the worst and hoping for the best. I don't think we've seen the worst, but we're down 340 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector because people didn't hire as many seasonal workers."

Small gains during July were noted in business and professional services — adding 30 jobs — and financial activities, seeing a gain of 20 positions.

Josephine County's jobless rate slipped below 15 percent, according the Employment Department, to a seasonally adjusted 14.9 percent.

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