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Local unemployment rate improves

Jackson County’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.6% in November, almost a full point lower than October but almost three points higher than at the same time last year.

Of the 3,980 jobs lost compared to last year, 1,760, or roughly half, are from the leisure and hospitality industry.

“That sector has been disproportionately hit,” said Guy Tauer, regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department.

Within that sector, entertainment-related businesses such as golf courses, the Britt Festival, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and skiing have seen 990 job losses as a result of fallout from the pandemic and fires.

Jackson County’s November unemployment rate was higher than Oregon’s as whole, which was 6%, and more than Josephine County’s 6.1%.

In April, the unemployment rate in Jackson County topped out at 16.1%, far exceeding the Great Recession when the county hit 14.1% in March 2009.

Roughly one out of six workers in Jackson County was unemployed in April, when the effects of the pandemic ripped through the local economy, affecting restaurants, hotels and the local entertainment industry.

The hardest-hit sectors of the Jackson County economy in April were leisure and hospitality, with job losses at 5,460; health care and social assistance at 1,500 jobs lost; manufacturing, 750; retail trade, 580; professional and business services, 260.

At the time, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis predicted the recovery would be quicker than after the Great Recession but expected a return to pre-pandemic unemployment numbers sometime in 2024.

Much of the local economy shows signs of recovery, but restaurants continue to struggle as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, forcing them to offer only takeout food.

Most industries have shown losses year over year, but there have been a couple of bright spots.

Health care and social assistance posted 330 additional jobs, and transportation, warehousing and utilities added 60 jobs.

Government employment in the county fell by 670 jobs since last year, particularly hitting the education system. The federal government added 90 jobs locally.

Other industries that have decline include retail trade, down 650 jobs, professional and business services saw a loss of 290 jobs and other services were down 320 jobs.

Manufacturing saw a year-over-year job loss of 280, information technology was down 110 and financial services dropped by 80.

Josephine County had similar trends in its unemployment picture, with 1,310 jobs lost year over year.

Compared to November 2019, Josephine County saw leisure and hospital lose the most jobs of any sector with 500. Manufacturing dropped 170, professional and business services lost 130, wholesale trade was down 130, other services decline by 90 and private education and health services lost 60.

The only private sector industries showing improvements were retail trade adding 60 and financial activities up by 10 and construction gaining 10.

Government employees declined by 230 jobs in Josephine County.

December’s unemployment rate for Jackson and Josephine counties will be released Jan. 26, and the statewide numbers will be released Jan. 20.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.