July 04, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

In May, there were 11,730 people employed in Union County and 620 out of work but looking for jobs.

That translates to an estimated jobless rate of 5 percent, according to the state Employment Department.

The 5 percent figure is down slightly from the revised figure for April, which was 5.9.

This represents a decline for four consecutive months and is back below the statewide rate for the first time since last October. Some 91,000 people, or 5.1 percent, were unemployed in Oregon in May.

The Employment Department states that through the first five months of the year, the number of unemployed Union County residents has been roughly the same as the first five months of 2000.

However, the local labor force size is about 2 percent smaller.

The total non-farm unemployment in Union County is down 70 from a year ago. And the county had 50 fewer federal government jobs than a year ago. That is due to the fact that there were 45 people working to compile census data in May 2000.

Things were more dramatic in Wallowa County in terms of the declining unemployment rate.

The rate fell from the April figure of 14 percent to a jobless rate of 10.1 percent in May, the latest month for which figures are available from the Employment Department.

The rate reflects the fact that 3,100 people were employed in Wallowa County in May, while 350 were unemployed.

The high rate even though down from the 17 percent of a few months ago was still tied for the second highest rate of the states 36 counties. Wasco also had a 10.1 percent unemployment rate.

Harney County, with 510 unemployed, had the states highest unemployment rate 13.1 percent.

The total non-farm people employed in Wallowa County rose by 140 between April and May, which was well above the normal seasonal expectations, according to the Employment Department.

But this could be misleading. Between May 2000 and May 2001, Wallowa Countys unemployment rate went up three full percentage points, the labor force shrunk by 210 (almost 6 percent) and the total non-farm employment declined by nearly 9 percent.