Oregon unemployment rate holds steady in October

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The unemployment rate in Oregon did not change last month, suggesting the recession may be easing, although economists also warned it is too early to tell.

Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 11.3 percent for October, the same as the revised number for September.

The figures released Monday by the Oregon Employment Department showed the state jobless rate has fallen nearly a full percentage point from a high of 12.2 percent in May and has hit the lowest level since February, when the statewide rate was 10.7 percent.

But the unemployment rate for October is still much higher than the 7.2 percent rate in October 2008.

Nationally, the unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent October, the highest level in 26 years and up nearly a half percentage point higher than the 9.8 percent rate in September.

The job losses in Oregon were concentrated in manufacturing, construction, and leisure and hospitality.

But two other major industries posted gains. Professional and business services, and financial activities boosted their ranks by a total of 2,900 jobs.

"It's early in this process to know for sure whether this is going to continue, but it is moving in the right direction," said state labor economist Art Ayre.

He said manufacturing continues to decline but at a slower pace, even with the loss of 3,100 jobs during October, when about 700 typically would be cut due to seasonal factors.

Construction lost 3,000 jobs in October during a month when a loss of only 1,100 is typical, resuming a decline in an industry that has suffered mostly moderate job cuts since February.

Seasonally adjusted construction employment dropped to 76,500 in October from 82,400 in February.

Ayre noted the total labor force in Oregon has shrunk slightly, totaling nearly 1.96 million in October after a peak of just over 2 million in April.

Ayre said an increase in enrollment for public universities in Oregon this fall may be a factor in reducing the labor force. He did not have enrollment figures for community colleges and private schools but said he expected a similar increase.

The total number of unemployed people in Oregon last month was 210,325, compared with 135,071 statewide in October 2008.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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