Posted by: Josh Lehner | June 15, 2010

Oregon Employment – May 2010 Report

The Oregon Employment Department released the preliminary May employment estimates today. On a seasonally adjusted basis, total nonfarm employment in May was 1,595,600, unchanged from April’s upwardly revised figure. April’s job gains, previously estimated at +3,900, were revised to +5,500. The current level of employment is slightly higher than employment in September 2009. Overall, increases in Government employment (+3,100), primarily due to Census hires, were offset by declines in the private sector, resulting in no net job creation in May. Taking a look at the industry breakdown of employment in May shows that Construction (+500) and Nondurable Goods Manufacturing (+900) saw increased employment. However, large declines in Retail (-800), Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities (-900), Financial Activities (-800) and Professional and Business Services (-700) more than offset the gains. Through the first five months of 2010, the state has averaged employment gains of 1,000, whereas during 2009, the state averaged job losses of 6,600 per month. On a year-over-year basis, employment fell 20,500 between May 2009 and May 2010, or 1.3 percent.

On a monthly basis, employment in Oregon peaked in February 2008 and has declined in 24 of the 27 months since. Total job loss since peak employment is 143,500, or 8.25 percent. With the recent employment reports indicating a bottoming out in the labor market, the current recession is now not quite as bad as the early 1980s recession in Oregon. Twenty-seven months into the early 80s recession, Oregon employment had fallen 9.2 percent from its peak, or a little more than 98,000 jobs. All told, employment fell nearly 12 percent between late 1979 and late 1982, or a total of approximately 126,000 jobs. The current recession has seen a larger total loss of jobs, however as a percentage of the total peak employment, job losses this recession are forecasted to be smaller than in the early 1980s.

One sector adding jobs is the federal government, due to increased temporary hiring for the decennial U.S. Census. At the national level in May, 411,000 employees were added for the Census. As noted by the Oregon Employment Department in its report, Census hirings increased 4,451 from April to May. This increase in Census workers accounted for much of the overall Government employment gains in the state last month. These workers are primarily tasked with collecting and verifying information related to the Census questions. In Oregon, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, Federal Government employees increased by 4,300 from April to May. The graph below illustrates the monthly changes in Federal Government employees in Oregon during the recent census years.

Given the temporary nature of the Census positions, these recent hires are expected to negatively impact the monthly employment report through the remainder of the year. If the employment pattern for the 2000 Census holds, the state would need to see job gains of around 2,000 in June just to offset the expected loss of Census workers. Positive, net job creation in June would require even larger employment gains in the private sector.  One important note: the data used in the graph below represents total federal government employment in Oregon and is not exclusively related to the Census, however the changes (both increases and decreases) are larger in Census years due to the temporary nature of the positions.

Also included in the May report was the unemployment rate estimate. On a seasonally adjusted basis, Oregon’s unemployment rate was 10.6 percent in May, unchanged from the 10.6 percent in April . The unemployment rate in May 2009 was 11.6 percent. Since peaking in May and June 2009 at 11.6 percent, the unemployment rate has fallen one full percentage point over the past year, however it remains essentially unchanged over the past seven months. The unemployment rate is based on what is commonly referred to as the “household survey”, which provides monthly estimates on the number of labor force participants and the levels of employment and unemployment. In the first five months of 2010 the level of self reported employment in the household survey has increased (light green line), as has the number of individuals seeking employment.

The increase in the labor force is expected – as the job market improves, more individuals will return to the labor market seeking work. Some of the increase in the labor force will be new entrants (recent migrants and/or students who finish school) and some will be individuals who previously stopped looking for work, but are now returning. Increases in the labor force are expected to continue in the coming year, helping to keep upward pressure on the unemployment rate even as job growth returns. The graph below compares the relative changes in Oregon’s labor market with the national labor market from Jan 1990 through May 2010.


  1. […] the Census workers nationwide will decrease the headline employment figure for June by 243,000. As noted previously, Census employment decreased by slightly more than 2,000 in June 2000 during the previous Census […]

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