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Oregon Unemployment Rate Rises

Oregon’s unemployment rate rose to 4.5% in December, from 4.3%, as revised, in November. The unemployment rate increased 1.0 percentage point over the past five months from its recent low of 3.5% in May, June, and July. The last time Oregon’s unemployment rate was 4.5% or more was in September 2021, when it was 4.5%. In contrast, the U.S. unemployment rate remained below 4% during the last three months of 2022, and it edged down from 3.6% in November to 3.5% in December.

Putting Oregon’s 4.5% December unemployment rate in a broader context: It has been relatively rare, historically, for Oregon’s unemployment rate to be 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.

In Oregon, nonfarm payroll employment rose by 6,100 jobs in December, following a gain of 8,200 jobs in November. The gains in December were largest in manufacturing (+2,400 jobs), construction (+1,300), and professional and business services (+1,100). The largest decline in December was in other services, which cut 500 jobs. Oregon’s private sector added 5,600 jobs in December, reaching another all-time high of 1,694,200. This was 22,500 jobs, or 1.3%, above the pre-recession peak in February 2020.

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 rate.

Leisure and hospitality is still substantially below its pre-pandemic peak. But its revised gain of 1,500 jobs in November, coupled with its gain of 600 in December, kept the industry on its recent upward trajectory. Over the past 12 months it added 16,900 jobs, accounting for a quarter of Oregon’s private sector job gains during that time.

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