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Since you asked

Variance of employment reports comes from estimates, job trends Why do the monthly work force numbers reported by the state employment department vary so much? The recent figures show a declining work force, yet I don't hear about thousands of people packing up and leaving town?

William T. ' Central Point

According to Tracy Morrissette of the employment department's work force and economic research section, much of the variance comes from how the numbers are estimated, although some of the variance can be attributed to the categorization of people who are employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force.

People in an area, such as Jackson County will move between categories in the labor force, depending on what they do each month. So they can remain in a given area and move in and out of the labor force.

For instance, she says, when economic conditions get bad, perhaps some will stop looking for work, and they'll drop out of the labor force. When economic conditions get better, more people will start to look for work and the civilian labor force will increase. There are several things that may cause the labor force to go up or down related to what people in the area do each month.

Another reason for the swings comes from the way the data is estimated. Figures are based on several data sources, one of which is a survey of Oregon households. Since these numbers are based on a survey, and not an exact head count each month, you will see some fluctuations. The labor force numbers are estimates, not total counts. For this reason, there is more value in looking at the long-term annual trends.

Send questions to Since You Asked, Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to