Oregon jobless rate falls to lowest level on record

Going back 40 years; job gains slowing down

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon's unemployment rate dropped to 4.3 percent in January, from 4.5 percent in December, the lowest unemployment rate since comparable records began in 1976, the Oregon Employment Department reported Tuesday.

Revised figures show Oregon's unemployment rate has been on a declining trend over the past seven years. Outside of the past 12 months, the only other time, over the past 40 years, that Oregon's rate reached below 5 percent was between November 1994 and September 1995, when the rate dropped as low as 4.7 percent. In January, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.8 percent.

In January, Oregon's nonfarm payroll employment rose by 2,600, which was less than the average of 3,500 jobs added per month over the past six months. Monthly growth was strongest in construction, which added 2,100 jobs, and retail trade, which added 1,200. Monthly losses were largest in health care and social assistance (-1,100 jobs) and government (-1,100).

Newly revised payroll employment figures show a slowdown in the overall rate of job gains in recent months, following quite rapid gains during the prior few years.

Over the past 12 months, payroll employment added 43,200 jobs, or 2.4 percent. Growth was very fast in construction, which added 10,000 jobs, or 11.5 percent. In that time, several major industries grew rapidly, by close to 4 percent: transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+2,600 jobs, or 4.4%); financial activities (+3,700 jobs, or 3.9%); information (+1,200 jobs, or 3.6%); and health care and social assistance (+8,000 jobs, or 3.5%). Meanwhile only two industries cut jobs in that time: manufacturing (-1,400 jobs, or -0.7%) and mining and logging (-200 jobs, or -2.6%).

Newly revised figures show less job growth in October through December. Total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 9,500, which was only two-thirds the growth that was originally estimated. The industries revised downward the most for that period were wholesale trade; government; and manufacturing. However, some industries were revised higher for December, including retail trade and information.

Starting with Tuesday's news release, employment at Oregon's public universities will be counted in local government education instead of in state government education. The change is due to legislative action that reorganized state universities into universities with governing boards in 2014 and 2015. This includes Eastern Oregon University, Oregon State University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Portland State University, Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon, and Western Oregon University. The change does not affect total government employment levels. See the text box below for additional information.

Next Press Releases
The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the January county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, March 7th, and the next statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for February on Tuesday, March 21st.

All numbers in the above narrative are seasonally adjusted.

The Oregon Employment Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) work cooperatively to develop and publish monthly Oregon payroll employment and labor force data. The estimates of monthly job gains and losses are based on a survey of businesses. The estimates of unemployment are based on a survey of households and other sources. This press release incorporates, for the first time, the annual revisions to the data for 2016 and prior years.

Prior to July 2014, public universities in the state of Oregon were under state government ownership. Beginning with data for July 2014, the Current Employment Statistics program classifies Oregon State University, Portland State University, and the University of Oregon in local government ownership. Beginning with data for July 2015, CES classifies the other four universities (Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Southern Oregon University, and Western Oregon University) in local government ownership.

This change in ownership resulted from the passage in 2011 and 2013 of state legislation which created a new legal entity called "universities with governing boards." Public universities in Oregon were reorganized in 2014 and 2015 under this new legal entity. This new political subdivision will be classified under local government ownership.

Oregon Senate Bills (SB) 242 and 270 enacted this change. SB 242, passed in 2011, created a means for public universities to establish governing boards. SB 270, passed in 2013, designated Oregon's public universities as universities with governing boards.

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