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Despite jobs boom, Oregon jobless rate bumps higher

PORTLAND — A jobs boom has not translated to a sharp drop in Oregon's jobless rate.

The Oregon Employment Department said Tuesday the unemployment rate increased to 6.1 percent in August from 5.9 percent in July. It was 5.2 percent in April.

The gradual rise comes at a time of robust hiring. The agency says Oregon's payroll employment has expanded by 60,400 jobs during the past 12 months. The state hasn't had a run like that since June 1996 to May 1997.

Normally, the unemployment rate wouldn't rise at a time of rapid job growth. But David Cooke, a state economist, said the labor pool might be growing faster than new jobs because of factors such as jobseekers moving to Oregon from other states.

Another consideration is the jobless rate is based on a survey of about 1,000 households and has a relatively high margin of error — 0.7 percent. The payroll employment figures are based on a larger survey of more than 8,000 establishments.

Though the jobless rate has jumped in recent months, it has fallen from 6.9 percent in August 2014.

Tuesday's employment report shows Oregon added 4,400 jobs in August, following a revised gain of 7,400 jobs in July.

The leisure and hospitality industry added 2,100 jobs, making it responsible for nearly half of August's gain.

"Nationally, there has been a large uptick in consumer spending on restaurants, so people are going out to eat more frequently and spending more money than they did a year ago," Cooke said. "We've had this big drop in gas prices over the year, and it looks like one of the main beneficiaries of that extra spending power is restaurants."

Most Oregon industries have shown a healthy uptick in jobs over the past year, with retail trade joining leisure and hospitality at the top of the heap. Only two industries have been flat — mining and logging, and financial activities.