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County unemployment rate rises

New state unemployment figures reflect both a contraction in the high-tech industry that boomed in the 1990s and the struggling overall economy that has marked the past year.

Jackson County's unemployment rate jumped to 6.3 percent in July from 5.3 percent a year earlier and saw 1,000 more people out of work. Even so, the area's continuing population growth boosted service and retail employment.

"People continue moving in here, and all those people demand goods and services," says Guy Tauer, a labor market analyst for the Oregon Employment Development department in Medford.

"People are going to buy gas, videos and clothes, and that drives up retail and service industry employment. There's no such direct relationship with manufacturing, which depends on the global economy, value of the dollar and competitiveness."

The area's population has grown at a 1.8 percent rate over the past year. People employed and unemployed who are 16 and older grew to 91,540 in July, up 680 from July 2000.

Retail accounted for an increase of 330 jobs - primarily at restaurants and non-store merchandising - from June.

John Anderson, an economist with the employment department's Medford office, reported a gain of 60 wood products and printing manufacturing jobs in July from June. It was the first monthly increase since October 2000.

For the year, there are 780 fewer manufacturing jobs, a drop of 8.3 percent. Electronic and wood products layoffs account for most of the decline.

"You would expect to see a decline October through March and then start to see it come up," Anderson said. "This year it didn't, because we had some fairly significant layoffs. But even though the increase may be small, it's an increase. The unusual thing is that we went so long without an upturn."

Construction contributed 100 new jobs for July. But it's been retail trade and service that have led a gain of 1,200 nonmanufacturing jobs this year.

Nonfarm employment in Jackson County fell by 1,350 in July as seasonal layoffs in public education offset gains in retail and other industries. However, there has been an overall gain of 400 nonfarm jobs this year.

In a separate report

made available on the Internet this week, the employment department listed wages for occupations throughout the state.

State figures show that Jackson and Josephine counties' most common occupation - retail sales - earn a mean wage of $20,651.

Registered nurses - the eighth most common job in the region - earn a mean of $48,908. Elementary teachers - the 13th most common occupation - earn a mean of $40,570.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail .