Posted by: Josh Lehner | September 13, 2011

Oregon Employment – Aug 2011

  • Statewide employment increased 800 on a seasonally-adjusted basis
  • Revisions to July were particularly ugly, revealing large public sector losses
  • Private Sector has gained jobs the past 5 months and 10 out of past 11
  • Unemployment rate inched upward to 9.6 percent, the U.S. rate is 9.1

Payroll Employment

This morning the Oregon Employment Department released the preliminary employment figures for August, along with revisions to July’s estimates. In August, Total Nonfarm Employment increased 800 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The private sector gained 400, as did the public sector. Professional and Business Services led the way with job gains of +1,600 while Construction saw large declines (-1,600).

The biggest news is the revisions to the July estimates. Originally, July saw gains of 300 (Private sector +1,200, Public sector -900). With the revisions, July is now estimated to have seen job losses of 3,300 in Oregon. The vast majority of these job losses are in Public sector (-4,100), particularly in local education. These revisions are not good news overall, obviously, however the private sector continues to add jobs in each of the past 5 months and in 10 out of the past 11 months. Over the past 12 months, the Private Sector has added an average of 2,667 jobs per month. Not great but also not terrible when you consider that during the 1990s expansion in Oregon, the Private Sector added on average 2,950 jobs per month and during the 2000s expansion the Private Sector added 3,400 jobs per month. See this recent blog post for a more thorough industry level look.

The underlying, real story of the subdued recovery continues to be housing and government, discussed more in depth last month and in our most recent forecast. Specifically regarding the July revisions, one theory is that the public sector cuts are a timing issue. Our forecast called for approximately 6,000 more public sector cuts in the next two quarters. The July numbers indicate that we are slightly more than half way there. While these are large negative numbers today, if our forecast is accurate, that would mean the coming months would show smaller levels of public job losses and thus the headline Total Nonfarm figure will be larger. Its a theory at least.

Total Nonfarm Employment in Oregon reached its low point of the cycle in December 2009 and since then, the state has added jobs in 15 out of the 20 months since then (Private Sector has added jobs in 16 out of 20). The following graph and table illustrate the private vs public sector performances in recent years. See this recent post for more information on the composition of Public Sector changes and this post on State Education changes.

Unemployment Rate

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Oregon stands at 9.6 percent in August. The corresponding rate for the nation is 9.1 percent. After declining considerably from the depths of the recession, Oregon’s unemployment rate has ticked up in recent months from 9.3 percent in May to 9.6 percent now in August. The nation’s rate has moved similarly from 8.8 percent in March to 9.1 today.

Clearly the slowdown, or soft patch, in the economy during the first half of 2011 is continuing to have an impact on the past few months’ employment reports. Job gains have slowed and, at best, the unemployment rate is holding steady.


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