Jackson County employment rose by 170 jobs in November, an increase of 400 jobs over the past year.

Jackson County employment rose by 170 jobs in November, an increase of 400 jobs over the past year.

Retail employment accounted for most of the monthly increase as well as for the jobs added since November 2009, according to figures released by the Oregon Employment Department today.

However, there are nearly 3,500 more people in the county civilian labor force than a year ago. The surge of applicants looking for work drove the county's November seasonally adjusted jobless figure up to 13.7 percent from 13.2 percent in October.

A year ago, the county's nonfarm payroll employment stood at 90,233. That figure has swelled to 93,717.

"A lot of this is making me scratch my head and making me wonder," said regional economist Guy Tauer.

His thought is that many people who were on the employment sidelines last winter have reentered the market.

"Some of people who were discouraged a year ago, thinking no one was hiring are more encouraged this year," Tauer said. "The payroll employment has been up for a couple of months. That has tendency to push up the unemployment number because there are more people competing for the openings out there."

He has another theory as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported job openings grew 32 percent, but hiring rose just 5 percent.

"There's a disconnect between the number of hires and the number of openings reported," Tauer said. "That tells me employers are being very picky about who they are adding to their staff. If they find the right person, they will fill the job, but they are sitting on their hands in other cases."

— Greg Stiles