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Construction of all types fuels local job gains

Seasonal job creation helped spur 450 nonfarm jobs last month in Jackson County.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 4.4 percent seasonally adjusted jobless rate in May, down from 4.6 percent in April and the 4.7 percent figure in May 2017.

While the month-over-month boost was welcome, There were 100,170 workers drawing paychecks from local employers in May, up from 98,361 a year earlier.

“There is a lot of public works and commercial activity going on,” said Guy Tauer, an Oregon Employment Department regional economist.

The Great Recession knocked about 3,000 construction workers off peak-employment payrolls and about 2,000 have returned, he said.

Tauer said a 2017 survey revealed 10 percent of all local job vacancies were in construction, with approximately 13 percent classified as difficult to fill, including laborers, drywall and ceiling tile hangers, carpenters and electricians.

Residential construction is on the upswing, he added, although nowhere near long-term averages or from 2004 to 2006. There were 160 additional hires last month and 670 more year-over-year.

“Permit activity has yet to reach pre-recession levels,” Tauer said. “We had 3,000 people move into the Rogue Valley in 2017 and permitted about 800 units in 2017. We’re note quite keeping up with the population growth on the residential side, and that’s one thing driving up housing costs.”

With visitors converging on the Rogue Valley and people spending more time outdoors, the leisure and hospitality industry added 210 jobs over the month. Year-over-year there are 230 new positions.

Manufacturing saw a monthly gain of 80 jobs, mining and logging picked up 30, and health care and social assistance employment increased by 40 jobs.

Teenagers, 14-18, continue to represent a declining presence in the workforce, Tauer said.

“Older workers — someone in their 20s — are often competing for the same jobs,” he said. “Some of the jobs traditionally for younger teens — counting bottles, boxing, bagging and taking groceries out to the car — just aren’t there any more.”

As a result, restaurants and hotels are the primary employer for teenagers, and others look in a totally different direction.

“Some of them focus on more educational-related things and life experience,” Tauer said. “I’m not even sure their priority is to get out there and get a job. If you work, what are you giving up? What have you traded for a close to minimum-wage, part-time and seasonal job? They may be turning to something closer to their passion, like volunteering at an animal shelter.”

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or gstiles@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

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