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County's jobless rate falls, but key sector lags

There's no arguing that the raw and adjusted numbers look good.

The Jackson County unemployment rate dropped to 5.1 percent in November, while the seasonally adjusted figure fell to 5.7 percent. Total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 330 to 87,210. Overall, there are 3,454 more people holding jobs than a year ago even as the labor force grew by 2,466.

Yet, the professional and business service sector — one of the major growth factors for Oregon — is lagging locally. Statewide, 9,600 jobs have been added into the sector over the past year; in Jackson County, such employment has fallen by 230 positions.

"Professional and business services takes into account corporate headquarters, management of companies, accounting, engineering, tech jobs and consulting," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department. "We're seeing more concentration and growth in those areas in Portland and larger (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) versus smaller MSAs and rural areas. Because it's one of the fastest-growing sectors, a year-over-year loss stands out."

Tauer surmised some of the regional decline could be attributed to the inability of local firms to fill positions.

"It could be harder to fill temporary positions, and it might be hard to find the right mix," he said. "With unemployment below 6 percent, finding the right people to fill an open position might be more difficult."

The trend has been going on for a while, according to more detailed data, which covered a span from June 2015 to June 2016.

Three sub-sectors: Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services; Management of Companies and Enterprises; and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, accounted for 250 lost positions in the county.

Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services includes establishments performing routine support activities for the day-to-day operations of other organizations.

The Professional, Scientific and Technical Services sector includes establishments specializing in professional, scientific and technical activities for others. Related jobs require a high degree of expertise and training.

During November, Jackson County payrolls increased by 330 with an additional 550 retail hires for the holidays.

Local government education employment rose by 230 in November, and state education employment rose by 70.  Health care and social assistance employment grew by 50 positions, and transportation, warehousing and utilities increased by 40. Construction employment fell by 80, and mining and logging dropped by 50 jobs, while leisure and hospitality declined by 170 jobs.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31