Despite job growth, the unemployment rate continues to surpass the national average.
Oregon’s unemployment rate jumped from 5.5 to 5.9 percent in July, according to a recent state report. While below the 7.0 unemployment rate from a year ago, it still remains higher than the national average of 5.3 percent.
Even as hiring accelerates—the state gained 55,900 jobs in the past year and 4,600 in the month of July—unemployment continues to lag behind the rest of the country.
In Oregon, the southern and central regions are experiencing the highest percentage of unemployment, with one in 12 facing joblessness in Curry, Grant and Crook counties.
“Every state has its unique unemployment issues,” says Oregon State Director Anthony Smith. “Some of that has to do with the makeup of the economy.” An influx of new job seekers and retirees affects the unemployment rate, but bad public policy is a key factor, he says.
“If public policy matters when looking at data like the unemployment rate in Oregon versus the rest of the country—and we know it does—then we can’t ignore the recent actions of the Oregon State Assembly,” Smith says.
The recent legislative session was one of the worst for small business in the history of the state. “Businesses are going to react to the environment that government creates,” Smith says. And they’re going to look for a way to succeed, even if that means cutting jobs or switching to automation, he says.
Job growth and a low labor force participation rate contributed to a tightening labor market, with employers finding it difficult to fill three in five positions. The majority of job growth has happened in the private sector, with 7,800 jobs added—30 percent of which were concentrated in the construction industry.
“It’s encouraging that Oregon is doing as well as we are, considering that we are coming out of this recession with one arm tied behind our back,” Smith says. If the state would redirect its public policy to help small business, instead of restrict it, he believes it would see even more job growth and a lowered unemployment rate.
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