State Unemployment Rate Remains Low


Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in May, from 4.3 percent in April. Oregon’s unemployment rate has been between 4.0 percent and 4.4 percent for 31 months, dating back to November 2016. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in both April and May. During this economic expansion, Oregon’s unemployment rate has been lower than at any time since comparable records began in 1976. The previous low was reached in January and February 1995 when Oregon’s rate touched 4.7 percent. In addition to the very low level of Oregon’s unemployment rate, it has been lower longer than ever before.


Since the late-1970s, during the prior five economic expansions, the unemployment rate would generally drop to a bottom in the cycle and then start moving upward within a few months. In contrast, during the past three years, Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped down close to 4 percent, remaining near there for 31 consecutive months. In May, Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment rose 1,200 jobs, following a gain of 4,000 jobs in April.


Monthly gains for May were strongest in health care and social assistance, which added 900 jobs, and in construction and government, which each added 600 jobs. Two industries cut jobs modestly in May: private educational services (-500 jobs) and retail trade (-400 jobs). Looking at longer-term trends, Oregon’s economy continued to grow rapidly. Since May 2018, total nonfarm payroll employment was up 47,400 jobs, or 2.5 percent.


The most rapid gains over the past year were in transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+4,900 jobs, or 7.6%) and construction (+7,500 jobs, or 7.2%). Job gains were widespread, with five other major industries each adding between 2.5 percent and 3.3 percent to their jobs base in the past 12 months. These industries were manufacturing (+6,500 jobs, or 3.3%), health care and social assistance (+7,300 jobs, or 2.8%), professional and business services (+6,700 jobs, or 2.7%), leisure and hospitality (+5,600 jobs, or 2.7%), and wholesale trade (+1,900 jobs, or 2.5%). During that time, none of the major industries cut a substantial number of jobs, although three industries showed little change: retail trade; financial activities; and mining and logging.

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