Full employment may still be a distant point beyond the horizon, but at least there's a breeze in the sails. (Correction: A homophone has been corrected in this story.)

Jackson County's jobless rate edged down for the eighth month in April as the Oregon Employment Department reported an 11.4 seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, the lowest since December 2008's 10.8 percent rate. April's reduction followed an 11.7 percent reading in March and showed substantial improvement from the 12.6 percent jobless mark in April 2010.

"We're trending in the right direction," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Employment Department.

Healthcare and social assistance sectors have boosted employment over the past 12 months, although there was little March to April gain.

Retail trade, spurred by the opening of Bed Bath & Beyond in the Rogue Valley Mall, contributed to a 140-person employment gain. Leisure and hospitality expanded by 17 jobs during the month, while accommodation and food services gained 60 positions.

"Construction is going to be the lagging sector," Tauer said. "While things are a bit better on the commercial side, we're just not seeing any improvement in terms of permit data."

The first three months of the year showed no gain from a weak first-quarter 2010, he said.

— Greg Stiles