Job Block Seen Through Magnifying Glass

It’s becoming a familiar pattern: Oregon’s economy continues to add jobs, but the statewide unemployment rate continues to inch up.

According to the latest report from the Oregon Employment Department, 6,100 jobs were added to Oregon’s workforce in December. The December total was less than the 8,200 jobs added the previous month.

Most of that growth was in the private sector, which did set a record total of just short of 1.7 million jobs, 22,500 ahead of the previous peak in February 2020.

The sectors with the largest job gains in December: Manufacturing, 2,400; construction, 1,300, and professional and business services and local government, each at 1,100. The local government category includes public schools. About 500 jobs were lost in the other-services sector.

“No broad sector of Oregon’s economy lost jobs,” Gail Krumenauer, Employment Department economist, said in a videotaped statement accompanying the monthly report.

Construction continued its rapid expansion in December. The industry added 10,200 jobs in 2022, for an annual growth rate of 9.1%. Gains were widespread throughout the industry, with all published components growing between 5.9% and 14.9% over that 12-month period. Building equipment contractors (3,700 jobs, or 11.5%) and building finishing contractors (2,200 jobs, or 14.9%) grew at the fastest rates.

Leisure and hospitality – lodging, restaurants and bars – gained 600 jobs on top of a revised gain of 1,500 for November. That sector remained below its peak reached prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but the 16,900 jobs added in the past 12 months account for about a quarter of the overall private-sector job gains.

However, Oregon’s statewide unemployment rate for December was at 4.5%, the fifth consecutive month it has risen from a low 3.5% in May, June and July. The national average was at 3.5%. For Oregon, the most recent time it was 4.5% was back in September 2021.

Oregon’s rate was at a modern record low 3.4% in the fourth months between November 2019 and February 2020, just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in business shutdowns and curtailments that caused a record one-month jump to 13.2% in April 2020.

But employers still added 81,000 jobs during all of 2022.

Krumenauer said that despite the rising rate, Oregon has rarely recorded an annual rate below 4.5%.

This occurred during the 14 months prior to December, when the rate averaged 3.9%. Also, from 2017 through 2019, the rate averaged 3.9%. But prior to late 2016, Oregon’s rate never dropped below 4.5% in any month dating back 40 years — from 1976, when comparable records began, to October 2016.

“Oregon’s unemployment rate has remained relatively low by historical standards,” she said. “But job growth remains strong.”

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