Oregon economists believe that the worst of the recession may be over, a sentiment that could be bolstered next week if new monthly figures show the state has stopped hemorrhaging jobs.

PORTLAND — Oregon economists believe that the worst of the recession may be over, a sentiment that could be bolstered next week if new monthly figures show the state has stopped hemorrhaging jobs.

Then the economists may turn to debating how vigorous an economic recovery might be in the state with the nation's third-worst jobless rate: Opinion varies from "weak" to "modest."

"The period of free fall we were in — that seems to be clearly over now," said Joe Cortright of Portland, chairman of Gov. Ted Kulongoski's council of economic advisers. But he cited weakness in commercial real estate among the risks to recovery.

On Monday, the state Employment Department releases jobs figures for July.

Oregon's jobless rate rocketed last fall and winter. It reached 12.1 percent in March and has remained close to that level since. Economists said this week they'd be surprised if last month's job losses were large.

Since the start of 2008, as the recession began, the common measure of the number of jobs in Oregon has fallen by 6 percent, or about 110,000. The latest figure for total nonfarm employment, seasonally adjusted, was 1.63 million.

State economist Tom Potiowsky predicts net job losses will total about 126,000 before employment begins to grow again in Oregon — at the end of this year or early next.

"Job growth is going to lag when the recession ends," he said Friday.

If his projection proves out, that means about 16,000 Oregonians are in jobs that will be cut within a few months, even as other indicators could begin showing the nation and state emerging from recession and economists offer tentative assessments of the prospects for recovery.

"It feels like we hit bottom in July or August, and we'll probably have a modest recovery," said economics consultant William Conerly of Lake Oswego. He said the data to demonstrate the recession is ending won't be available until months afterward.

Tim Duy, a professor at the University of Oregon who compiles an index that attempts to predict economic turns, is more pessimistic. He cites manufacturing job losses and the potential for a "jobless recovery."

"In the next six months, we're going to see this recession tail off," he said. "It's the other side I'm worried about. Growth could be anemic."