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Jackson County jobless rate drops to 4.6 percent

Jackson County's employment figures continue their tortoise-like recovery.

January employment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, released Tuesday, reveal slow and steady progress, with the estimated county labor force at 101,366, up 2,334 from January 2016. The number of people employed was listed at 96,018, up from 92,747, a 3.4 percent gain.

"We're still adding jobs at a fairly good clip," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate in January dropped to 4.6 percent from 5.3 percent in December. January 2016's rate was 5.5 percent.

The holiday build-up for retail and gift manufacturing pushed employee totals to 97,328 in December. But government metrics anticipate fewer people working after the first of the year. So even though there were 2,590 fewer people working in January than December, the seasonally adjusted figure improved.

Employment statistics factor in people working, full- or part-time, and those looking for work.

"If people haven't been looking for work in the last 30 days, they aren't included in the workforce," Tauer said. "A lot of people are marginally attached to the workforce. In relatively good times there are still a substantial number who won't find work for various reasons. The barriers may be lack of skills, challenges in their background and transportation issues."

Year-over-year, industries with the largest employment gains were retail trade, up 6.9 percent with 880 more jobs; financial activities, up 6 percent with 230 more employees; and professional and business services, up 5.6 percent with 380 more workers, Tauer noted.

"Some of the new development at the Northgate Marketplace wasn't reflected in earlier estimates, but it has bumped up our retail trade numbers," Tauer said.

Even with a month-over-month drop of 1,770 retail jobs, one out of six payroll employees were in the industry. Construction, transportation, warehousing and utilities and accommodation and food services all took post-holiday hits. Snow sports and the resumption of Oregon Shakespeare Festival activity boosted leisure and hospitality employment by 40 in January.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't differentiate full- from part-time work, the latest Census data show the average workweek in Jackson County in 2015 was 36.7 hours, compared to 37.4 hours statewide.

"In essence, Jackson County is similar to the rest of the state," Tauer said.

 — 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.