Share this article! Unemployment is holding steady, but is there any recovery? Also, new rules for solar work and protection for threatened smelt could create obstacles, while the Port of Astoria and Portland city bureaus see their projects challenged. Unemployment at bottom? Oregon’s unemployment rate in February held steady at 10.5%, and one economist sees … Read more
Unemployment is holding steady, but is there any recovery? Also, new rules for solar work and protection for threatened smelt could create obstacles, while the Port of Astoria and Portland city bureaus see their projects challenged.
Unemployment at bottom?
Oregon’s unemployment rate in February held steady at 10.5%, and one economist sees it as a turning point for the state’s recovery.
Retail and exports are up, with stabilization in professional and business services and other industries.
February’s figures aren’t spectacular. But they’re far preferable to free fall — and better than Washington state, which saw unemployment increase to 9.5 percent with a loss of 8,300 jobs last month…
…Oregon officials highlighted a drop in initial unemployment claims last month and a rapid increase in job openings. Monthly job losses have declined dramatically, [state labor economist Amy Vander Vliet] said, from an average 5,200 last summer to about 800 during the past three months.
Read the full story at OregonLive.com.
Solar wages a hot debate
House Bill 3651, passed during the Legislature’s recent special session and signed by the governor, is meant to close a loophole in the existing law.
Yet opponents of the law argue that its requirements are overreaching and can complicate solar energy installations.
Under the new law, if a private contractor installs and then manages a solar array on a public building, that contractor must pay its workers the prevailing wage rate required for public works projects. The law takes effect next January, after the Bureau of Labor and Industries writes clarifying rules.
John Killin, executive director of the Independent Electrical Contractors of Oregon, said the new law overreaches. “This is the first time a bill has specifically stated that there will be prevailing wage on a private project,” he said.
Read the full story at the Daily Journal of Commerce.
Log export idea nixed
Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen joined Port of Astoria tenants in opposing plans to bring log exporting back to the Port.
The plans were presented by Bill Hunsinger, president of the Port of Astoria Commission, as part of an effort to bring logging work back to the region.
The Port’s new plan would bring Westerlund Log Handlers of Bremerton, Wash., to Astoria and would create a log yard at the Port of Astoria that would be bigger than the one at the Port of Tacoma. “I’m here to put the loggers of Clatsop County back to work,” Hunsinger said.
But the project described by Hunsinger, Dave Westerlund and Greg Franklin, of International Veneer, did not go over well with the present tenants of the Port and owners of nearby businesses, who had proceeded with business plans based on the Port’s previous master plan. And others at the meeting expressed concerns about the effect a big logging operation would have on tourism and the increased log truck traffic the operation would bring.
Read the full story at The Daily Astorian.
PDX budget mess
Portland currently faces a spending gap of $17 million to $20 million for 2010-11, and city bureaus are considering cutting back on essential city services to close the gap.
But the bureaus and Portland Mayor Sam Adams are also proposing 12 spending hikes, which total $2 million and are mostly opposed by the city’s budget office.
To close the gap, city bureaus have proposed eliminating programs that provide essential services. The Police Bureau, for example, might have to cut its patrol unit on horseback to save $650,000. And the Fire Bureau may have to close one of its 30 fire stations and eliminate six positions for firefighters.
Yet even in this tough economic climate, bureaus are asking for extra money in a $371 million budget to expand services that aren’t essential to the city’s core responsibilities.
Read the full story at Willamette Week.
Smelt listed as threatened
Once an abundant species in local rivers, Pacific smelt has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act by the Obama adminstration.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says smelt are now at “moderate risk of extinction,” with numbers at or near historic lows.
The smelt decision doesn’t pack the drama or economic wallop of the salmon listings. But it will affect river habitat plans, fishing seasons, water flow from dams and permits for dredging and other work in and around Northwest rivers.
It also will force the government to take the small forage fish into account when regulating smelt bycatch in the ocean shrimp fleet.
Read the full story at OregonLive.com.