Both the workforce and payrolls grew during February as Jackson County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate improved to 8.6 percent — the lowest in more than five years.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in January and 10.2 percent a year ago. In Josephine County, February's seasonally adjusted jobless figured was 9.5 percent, down from 9.7 percent in January and below the 11.6 percent mark a year earlier.
Figures compiled for Jackson County by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 460 jobs were added last month, while the civilian workforce grew to 96,330 from 95,854 in January. However, February's workforce total was down 1,473 from a year earlier.
"The trend is still positive," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. "Certainly there have been a couple of layoffs that have made the news lately — (CenturyLink) and a couple of other small layoffs, so there is still weakness in this area compared to the rest of the state."
With tax season kicking in, professional and business service grew by 170 positions in Jackson County, while government entities added 490 jobs.
Retailers shed 270 jobs, while transportation, warehousing and utilities dropped 70 jobs. However, both sectors have shown year-over-year growth. Health care, leisure and hospitality, and other services, each gained 40 jobs in February, but are keeping fewer people on the job than a year ago.
Even though building permits have increased, there hasn't been a marked pickup in construction-related industries.
"We're certainly lagging behind the Oregon trends, which have been stronger," Tauer said. "We're just not matching the more-robust trends up north."
Tauer said the Medford Education Association's 11-work-day strike in February didn't show up in the BLS report because it was resolved prior to the end of the month. Year-over-year federal, state and local government employment is up 160 positions.
The unemployment rate hit 8.7 percent in September 2008, climbed into double digits and only dipped below 9 percent last month.
— Greg Stiles