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County jobless rate bests Portland, Salem

Strong job gains in the retailsector in November helpedbring rte down to 5.0 percent

Jackson County employers added 1,370 positions in November as the local jobless rate mirrored the nation's seasonally adjusted mark of 5.0 percent.

Most of November's job gains occurred in retail trade as local unemployment declined from November 2004's 6.3 percent rate. During that 12-month period, Jackson County's payroll employment increased by 2,560, a 3.1 percent gain.

Employment Department numbers show the county's jobless rate was lower than Oregon's 5.8 percent seasonally adjusted rate as well as rates for the Portland metropolitan area (5.3 percent), Eugene-Springfield (5.5) and Salem (5.6). Bend (4.8) and Corvallis (4.6) had lower unemployment.

Josephine County's unemployment rate, estimated at 6.2 percent, was little changed from the prior month as well, but brighter than November 2004's 7.7 percent rate.

Jackson County's retail trade accounted for the majority of the monthly job gains, adding 1,010 positions and sustaining year-over-year growth by about the same number since November 2004.

— The retail sector has been strong, drawing from (a) wider geographical area, said regional economist Guy Tauer. I feel that things will continue being pretty good because of what we've seen over the past year. I think there is optimism with a little caution thrown in for 2006. Retail spending was up 4.1 percent, even with higher gas prices this year. It may be a bit quieter this year though.

While the housing boom has slowed nationwide, the region's continued population growth will likely bolster the construction sector through 2006.

It's hard to say with any degree of precision what the next 12 months will be like, but we're still in a pro-growth mode here, Tauer said. The thing that will cause slowing is the housing supply constraints. Can businesses attract a work force to the area with high housing costs?

Among the sectors gaining in November was health care and social assistance employment, which rose by 210 jobs. Professional and business services employment climbed by 110 jobs.

State and local government employment recorded job gains in November, with local education adding 160 to its payrolls and state education hiring 90 more people.

There were, however, cutbacks in some industries in November. Natural resources and mining declined by 70 and fell by 40 year-over-year. With a much wetter November than October, construction employment fell by 40.

However, construction still accounted for about one out of six new jobs in Jackson County over the past year, with an increase of 400 in the 12-month period. Leisure and hospitality employment declined by 160 in November, but remained 7 percent ahead of where it was a year earlier, adding 600 jobs.

Josephine County's total payroll employment fell by 230 as seasonal declines in leisure and hospitality accounted for most of the month's decline.

However, since November 2004, the county has added 900 payroll jobs, for a growth rate of 3.7 percent.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail County jobless rate bests Portland, Salem"business@mailtribune.com.