Oregon Unemployment Falls for Fifth Consecutive Month

Oregon’s near-record low unemployment mirrors national trends, with government, services, and hospitality recording the biggest job gains.

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Data released by the Oregon Employment Department on Wednesday shows Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month in June, down to 3.5% from 3.7% in May.

The June rate was close to Oregon’s record-low 3.4% unemployment rate, recorded in November and December of 2019, and down 1.3% from 4.8% in January.

According to the OED press release, Oregon’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment grew by 5,700 jobs, following a revised gain of 4,200 jobs in May. June’s job gain was the largest monthly increase since January, when the state added 9,600 jobs.

The sectors where job gains were the largest were in government, which added 2,400 jobs; a category called “other services,” which refers to fields like repair and maintenance , and which added 1,800 jobs; leisure and hospitality, which added 1,600 jobs; health care and social assistance, which added 1,100 jobs and professional and business services, which added 1,500 jobs.

Late last year, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released a quarterly economic forecast predicting a “mild recession” could hit in 2023 and take full effect by summer. By December, senior economist Josh Lehner was saying the odds of a recession had dropped significantly.

Now economists’ tune has changed: A recent economic analysis by Deloitte Insights reported that consistent strong national job numbers, combined with other indicators, meant there was “too much positive news” to indicate a recession is on the horizon.

“Oregon’s economy and labor market continue to be strong,” Lehner tells Oregon Business over email, adding that the job growth tracks with state estimates.

“We have noticed in the withholding data that the slowdown earlier in 2023 started reversing, with growth picking back up in May and June. The latest employment report confirms what we have been seeing in the revenue data,” Lehner says. 

Not all sectors saw job growth. Wholesale trades, transportation, warehousing, and utilities and manufacturing each lost 1,000 or more jobs in June.

The data show payroll employment grew 2.3% over the past year. Over-the-year job growth slowed to approximately 2% in the past five months, down from the 12-month growth rates that were above 3% during the post COVID-19 economic recovery period over the two years.

The national unemployment rate was 3.6% in June 2023, closely mirroring Oregon’s rate. The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in June. The low unemployment reflects a bullish overall economy – the S&P 500 entered a bull market in June, up 20% from its most recently-recorded low.

Other states, like Missouri, have already broken low unemployment records.

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