News Column

Oregon Gains 4,200 Jobs in January

March 7, 2013

Molly Young

The good news: Oregon's economy gained thousands more jobs than first estimated last year. Now, the not-so-good: Job growth remains slower than normal -- and probably won't pick up until later this year.

In January, companies added 4,200 jobs as unemployment held at 8.4 percent, according to Oregon Employment Department data issued Tuesday.

The report offers the first glimpse of the recovery in 2013, as well as revises earlier data. The updates show hiring largely eked along through 2012, when the state gained 6,500 more jobs than first estimated. Despite that, overall employment growth remained subdued at 1.1 percent from January 2012 to January 2013.

"We just continue to grind slowly up," said John Mitchell of M&H Economic Consultants based in Lake Oswego. "That's been going on for a long time."

Oregon's professional and business services and manufacturing sectors led the revised gains, while the state's financial activities industry was much weaker than estimated.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics collects the data, which is then released by the state Employment Department. The month-month numbers are then revised, sometimes dramatically. And as part of an annual process, the 2012 information was again updated in recent weeks.

The new information doesn't affect the state's quarterly revenue forecasts, said Mark McMullen, who leads the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. Economists there draw from the same data source to guide their employment forecasts and have already taken into account the stronger hiring, he said.

Still, hiring probably won't accelerate until the second half of the year, he said. His office expects growth to pick up to 2.5 percent, or about halfway between "disappointing and normal," he said.

Last year, Oregon gained a seasonally adjusted 17,200 nonfarm jobs, while the unemployment rate bounced between 8.4 percent and 9 percent. The national average dropped below 8 percent last fall for the first time since the economic downturn and stood at 7.9 percent in January. The feds will release February employment data Friday.

Those rates, based on a household survey and collected by federal officials, don't include those stuck in part-time jobs when they'd rather work full time or those who have given up the hunt altogether.

Nearly 183,000 Oregonians were unemployed in January, a 7,700 drop from the same time last year.

The private sector carried Oregon's January gains, adding 5,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis. Public employers, meanwhile, shed 800.

Manufacturers and leisure and hospitality employers lost fewer positions than expected last month, partly contributing to the statewide gains. Construction companies shed more jobs than the seasonal norm.

Officials also said Tuesday that December hiring was weaker than first thought and revised down that month's gains from an initial uptick of 2,000 to an updated gain of 1,200.

This post has been updated from its original version to reflect additional comments and details.



Source: (c)2013 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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