Jackson County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate dropped marginally to 11 percent in December from 11.3 percent a month earlier.

Jackson County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate dropped marginally to 11 percent in December from 11.3 percent a month earlier.

Placed against December 2010's 12.9 percent unemployment figure, however, it looked much better.

"Over the past year, the number of unemployed in Jackson County is down 1,400 and total employment has increased by 940," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with Oregon's Employment Department. "Certainly we are going in the right direction."

Figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics followed national and state trends. Nonetheless, Jackson County remained in double-digit jobless territory along with neighboring Josephine County, which has seen its seasonally adjusted jobless rate decline to 11.7 percent from 13.5 percent at the end of 2010. Jackson County's jobless rate hasn't fallen below 10 percent since a 9.4 reading in October 2008. It rose to 10.1 percent that November and has remained in double-digits since then.

"If we keep trending in the direction we've been going, a 10 percent adjusted rate is within the realm of possibility," Tauer said. "I'm not going to go out on limb for what the future holds, but if the trends continue, we certainly could see rates of 10 percent or less in 2012. That's if we don't have other major headwinds, such as the world entering a much slower phase of growth, and Oregon doesn't slip into second dip in overall job growth trend. A lot of things will have to go right."

During December total nonfarm employment was 76,300, a gain of 60 jobs since December 2010. Going against the year-over-year grain, total payroll employment declined by 1,520 jobs over the month.

Tauer said goods-producing sectors of construction and manufacturing combined for 280 fewer jobs. Wholesale and retail trade showed declining trends, with wholesale losing 40 jobs and retail trade shedding 290 jobs over the month. Professional and business services saw 140 jobs disappear, while health care and social assistance posted a second consecutive decline, with 180 fewer positions.

"The economy not growing fast enough to cause employers to hire," Tauer said. "Across the U.S., the overall economy is growing slowly, but employers just don't have the demand that creates hiring. Labor costs are up and employers are squeezing productivity out of their existing workforce. There just has not been incentive to ramp up faster than it has."

— Greg Stiles