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Jackson County employment stays above 100,000 in February

By almost any way you measure it, Jackson County employment is up.

More than 100,000 people cashed paychecks in February, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released Tuesday. That’s up 4,013 positions from a year earlier and 1,322 more than in January. Even with the local labor force climbing to 105,704, the raw jobless rate stayed pretty much put at 5.1 percent, while seasonally adjusted unemployment was 4.4 percent, a slight bump up from January’s 4.3 percent mark and the 4 percent in January 2017.

During the past year, nonfarm payrolls have grown 3.4 percent, adding 2,910 people. Private education, health services and social assistance were among the main job creators.

Construction and manufacturing were among the gainers as well, even during the winter months. But simple head counts can be misleading, suggests Brad Bennington of the Southern Oregon Builders Association.

“Even though we have more workers employed in the industry than last year, there is still a critical shortage,” Bennington said. “The thing about Bureau of Labor numbers is that they’re kind of misleading, because a job is a job to them. They don’t care if it is a $10-an-hour job or $50-an-hour job. If you lose 10 $50-an-hour jobs and replace it with 15 $12-an-hour jobs, they’re going to call that a win.”

On the other hand, Bennington figures the shortage of skilled labor will push hourly wages higher as contractors seek workers to pour concrete, frame, roof and drywall buildings.

“Right now, we have a critical, acute, shortage of skilled labor — even laying down asphalt,” he said.

In his monthly report, Oregon Employment Department regional economist Guy Tauer said most published industries had job gains or flat employment growth over the month. The only monthly losses were in transportation, warehousing and utilities, a sector down by 50 jobs in February. Construction was up 80 positions, manufacturing 40, while mining and logging added 20 paychecks. Health care and social assistance employment climbed by 100 positions.

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