Jobs are returning to Oregon

imo-blogFebruary saw the highest monthly jobs gain in Oregon since November 1996. But local economist Patrick Emerson argues that we still have a tough climb ahead of us.

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By Patrick Emerson

The February numbers are out and Oregon’s jobs picture looks much better, though not enough to disabuse me of the belief that though we are indeed in recovery mode, it is still going to be a climb out.

The unemployment rate is still at a quite high 10.2%, but the number of new jobs created was a very robust 9,800 on a seasonally adjusted basis. This is the highest monthly jobs gain in Oregon since November 1996. The unemployment rate is of course a function of supply and demand and the supply of those looking for jobs in increasing with demand so it’ll be hard to make a serious dent in it quickly, but the jobs numbers have been good for 5 months now, and it is this number that is the important one upon which to focus.  Finally some very good news about the Oregon economy.

Here is a picture of the jobs numbers:

One reason to temper enthusiasm is the terrible catastrophe in Japan, which will not help matters as it is one of the top destinations for our exports and the Port of Portland still handles a number of cars and other goods going to and coming from Japan.  Graphs showing Oregon Exports by Country from 1997 to 2010 taken from a post at the Office of Economic Analysis Blog show that Japan remains a crucial trading partner.

Turmoil in the Middle East and the related surge in oil prices is not helping speed the recovery either.  So the moral of the story is that things are getting better, but still slowly and we still have a long climb ahead.

Patrick Emerson is an associate professor of economics for Oregon State University and author of the Oregon Economics Blog and Beeronomics. His blog is reprinted with permission.