Union County jobless rate falls to 7.6%

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer November 05, 2012 01:54 pm

Unemployment inched down in Union and Wallowa counties in September to the lowest rates in about four years, according to a report from the Oregon Employment Department.

The latest numbers pegged Union County’s unemployment rate for the month at 7.6 percent, the best showing since September 2008. In Wallowa County, the jobless rate came in at 6.6 percent, the lowest in 47 months.

“We still have relatively high unemployment rates, but the trend continues to move in the right direction,” said Jason Yohannan, the department’s regional economist.

Union County’s jobless rate has been improving slowly but steadily since January 2012, when it stood at 10.7 percent. It hung in double digits through March, then fell to 9.4 percent in April. In August of this year, the rate was 8.4 percent.

While there is a long way to go before the economy is truly humming, Yohannan said there seems to be some solid, reliable growth in certain employment sectors.

“We can identify places here and there where jobs counts are coming up,” he said, citing as examples professional and business services and wholesale trade.

Though the unemployment rate dipped to a four-year low, the total job count for Union County was down a little. Non-farm jobs tallied 9,760 in September, 10 fewer than August’s 9,770. Yohannan said high school and college students giving up their jobs to return to school likely played a role in the falling job count.

Wallowa County’s non-farm labor force was smaller as well. The department counted 2,510 jobs in September, 70 fewer than in August.

In both Union and Wallowa counties, the mining and logging sectors shed some workers in September. Yohannan said that may be tied to dry conditions in the woods. “I think it might have been fire danger, though I’m just guessing. We were in severe dry conditions.”

Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for September was 8.7 percent. In the United States, it came in at 7.8 percent.