Jackson County unemployment dips to 5%
Jackson County’s unemployment rate has fallen to 5%, according to the latest figures from the Oregon Employment Department.
The September number shows the county hasn’t fully regained its prepandemic economic strength, when unemployment went as low as 3.4% in November 2019 amid a tight labor market.
But the unemployment rate continues to improve from its pandemic high of 14.1% set in April 2020, when state COVID-19 safety restrictions triggered a wave of job losses.
Jackson County’s 5% unemployment rate puts it slightly behind the statewide rate of 4.7%, but in the middle of the pack for other population centers in Oregon.
The Corvallis area had the best unemployment rate at 3.6%, followed by the Portland and Salem areas, which both stood at 4.7% in September.
The Bend area was at 5.1% unemployment, the Eugene area was at 5.2% and the Grants Pass area came in last among population centers at 5.8%, according to the Oregon Employment Department.
The department said 102,000 Oregonians were unemployed in September, a major improvement from the pandemic peak of 270,000 Oregonians without jobs in April 2020.
However, the state still has ground to make up to approach the average of 82,000 unemployed residents from 2017-2019 during the tight labor market of the previous economic expansion, the Oregon Employment Department said.
The September numbers don’t yet capture impacts from a state mandate that health care and K-12 school workers get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or get a religious or medical exception. Some people left their jobs rather than get vaccinated, while others are on leave or retired early.
People who leave their jobs because of the vaccine mandate generally are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
An individual does not have to collect unemployment benefits to count as unemployed. The unemployment rate measures the percent of workers in the labor force who do not currently have a job but are actively looking for work.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate dropped from 5.2% in August to 4.8% in September.
A national mandate that workers at large companies get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing goes into effect in November.
Some economists consider 5% to be the “natural rate” of unemployment in the U.S., meaning the economy is healthy but some businesses are laying off workers or failing, and some workers are getting fired or leaving their jobs for other reasons. That figure accounts for the natural churn of workers and businesses in the economy.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.