UNION COUNTY UNEMPLOYMENT BELOW STATE, NATIONAL AVERAGE

December 27, 2001 12:00 am
HAND ASSEMBLED: Misty Russell of La Grande assembles cabinets for a trailer in the assembly line at Fleetwood trailers in La Grande. The company will add 100 workers by February. (The Observer/KELLY WARD).
HAND ASSEMBLED: Misty Russell of La Grande assembles cabinets for a trailer in the assembly line at Fleetwood trailers in La Grande. The company will add 100 workers by February. (The Observer/KELLY WARD).

By Ray Linker

By The Observer

Although unemployment in Union County for November was the highest it has been since April, the 5.0 percent rate is still below the national average of 5.7 percent. And its the lowest unemployment rate of any county in Oregon.

Union County is well below the state average of 7.4 percent for the month of November.

The state increase is a reflection of heavy layoffs in the western part of the state, where most of the high-tech companies are located.

Statewide unemployment was 6 percent in October. By contrast, it was 4.1 percent in November 2000.

The number of people unemployed but still looking for work in Union County in November was 620, the highest since the 730 in May.

Wallowa County presented some interesting statistics. The work force listed by the Oregon Employment Department numbered only 3,120, the lowest this year.

At the same time, the unemployment rate for November, the last month for which figures are available, was listed at 9.3 percent. That compares to 6.6 percent in October. It was 9.6 percent in November 2000.

Last winter, Wallowa County unemployment was in double digits for several months, including the 18.4 percent for February this year.

It helped when workers returned to the sawmill in Wallowa in April, which resulted in a drop to 14 percent unemployed.

The drop in the civilian work force in Wallowa County by more than 500 people from August to November indicates workers have stopped looking for jobs, moved away or are now counted in other counties numbers.

The lowest unemployment, in terms of percentages, was in September in both Union and Wallowa counties. It was 3.9 percent in Union and 5.3 percent in Wallowa.

In the figures released for Oregon counties for November, there is only one other county that comes close to the low unemployment that Union County has. That is Gilliam, with 5.2 percent unemployment. But the sparsely populated county, with a workforce of 1,150, had only 60 people out of work.

Metropolitan areas on the west side of the state showed high unemployment except for the Corvallis area.

In the Portland-Vancouver area, which includes Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington, there were 74,700 people unemployed in November, the Employment Department reported.

The Corvallis area, on the other hand, had only 1,300 unemployed, or 3.2 percent.

The Eugene-Springfield area reported 6.9 percent unemployed, with Salem at 6.8 percent. Things were a little better in the Medford-Ashland area, which was at 5.6 percent for November.

The Employment Department stated that the figures presented do not count those involved in labor disputes or strikes among the unemployed. About 1,000 nurses at the Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital have been on strike for more than a week.