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Oregon unemployment rate drops to 6.8 percent

The Associated Press

PORTLAND ' After 41 straight months with the highest or the No. 2 jobless rate in the nation, Oregon finished 2004 with a little employment growth to cap a year that showed early promise then fell flat as the economic recovery slowed.

The 6.8 percent statewide unemployment rate for December was a significant improvement from the revised November unemployment rate of 7.2 percent and pushed the Oregon jobless rate closer to the national rate of 5.4 percent.

Overall, Oregon ranked No. 8 nationally for job growth in 2004, according to Art Ayre, chief state labor economist.

The growth we had in 2004 was the best we've seen since 2000, Ayre said, so 2004 actually was our first good year in a long time despite the flat employment in the last half of the year.

Most of the growth came in the first half of 2004, with employment increasing by 27,000 jobs between February and June, or an amazing 5 percent annual growth rate during those months, Ayre said.

— But after June, growth slowed to a crawl and the unemployment rate increased slightly, holding above 7 percent until December.

The state economic forecast delivered each quarter to the Legislature calls for moderate growth in 2005, and December figures support the prediction, Ayre said.

Statewide, employment rose by 1,700 jobs in December after a loss of 400 in November, according to Oregon Employment Department figures released Thursday.

Most major industry groups performed close to their normal trends for the time of year but both transportation and manufacturing showed some improvement.

On the Net:Oregon Employment Department figures: