Jackson County labor pool nears all-time high

    Jackson County's civilian labor force is nearing an all-time high. If trends continue, the county's peak labor force of 104,012, recorded in November 2008, will be surpassed in the next couple of months.

    "Generally we see an employment rise as holiday retail jobs pick up," said Guy Tauer, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department. "Unless there is a large correction for some reason, we're going to exceed that this year."

    The labor force is a combination of employees and people looking for work.

    September's labor force of 103,414 eclipsed the September 2008 figure of 103,341.

    "We're finally just above the high-water mark in both Jackson and Josephine counties before we hit the recession," Tauer said. "It took a little bit longer to get back than other places." By November 2014, statewide employment reached pre-recession totals, he said.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 97,585 people were working in Jackson County during September, 4,853 more than a year ago. The number of people at work during September fell just short of the 2007 total of 97,856. The raw unemployment rate dipped to 5.6 percent, while the seasonally adjusted rate was 6.6 percent. By either count, the jobless picture improved.

    This likely comes as no surprise to people looking for a place to rent or buy.

    "You can see it from the rising rents and home prices," Tauer said. "We're seeing a rise in residential building-permit numbers."

    Although it's far from the annual totals for the two decades before the Great Recession, between 880 and 900 single- and multiple- family residence permits will be issued during 2016 in the county — if area trends continue. In 2009, Tauer said, only 320 county residential building permits were issued.

    The start of school spurred job increases in September, with retail hires in advance of the holiday season creating another 280 jobs. Health care and social assistance added 70 positions and have grown by 400 positions in the past 12 months. In the past year, an additional 470 construction jobs and 300 manufacturing positions have been created, although manufacturing took a hit in September, losing 60 people.

    Tauer noted the business and professional services sector shed 140 jobs in September and has shown little growth in the past year.

    "This is in contrast to the trend statewide, where this industry is among the fastest growing since September 2015," he said. "There is a lot of growth in Portland, but we're not seeing growth in management companies here or as much temporary help and employee leasing. There is just a wider range of software, electrical engineering and graphic design that is driving growth up there. A lot of it has to do with the concentration and clustering that goes on. Companies can poach employees from similar companies where there is a deep pool of people. It's a little thinner in an economy of our size."

    — Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

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