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Unemployment rate shows little change

 Posted: 1:05 PM March 25, 2013

The local jobless rate lingers in double digits, even as the workforce shrinks.

Jackson County's seasonally adjusted February unemployment rate of 10.3 percent, compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, barely moved from January's 10.4 percent mark, but was a bit better than the 10.8 percent

February 2012 figure.

Compared to last year, however, the local workforce has declined more than 2 percent to 97,838 from 100,220.

"It's a trend we're are seeing around the state and nationally as well," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with Oregon Employment Department. "We haven't seen decline in (Jackson County's) population and overall population is growing; we don't know exactly where those people are going."

This February workforce numbers are similar to those of 2005, when the economy was going full bore, said Tauer. They peaked at 102,634 in 2009, after the real estate bubble burst and credit crunch hit the banking system.

"It's been in a slow decline since," Tauer said. "It's still a pretty tough economy and some of the jobs lost during the Great Recession aren't coming back."

During February, the county's payroll employment rose by 520 jobs and over the past 12 months it has gained 690 nonfarm payroll jobs.

"We have seen estimated growth in a variety of sectors, including professional and business services and private education," Tauer said. "The private sector has shown a broad-based recovery with 950 new jobs. We haven't seen a loss in construction jobs, so it looks like we may have bottomed out in construction employment that's been in such a long-term decline."

Government jobs have dwindled, he said.

Uncertainty has been a certainty in recent years, so there's no assurance hiring trends will continue and double-digit unemployment will end.

"We're getting close," Tauer said. "But we're not quite there yet."

— Greg Stiles

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