Clatsop County's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in January, a significant increase from 6.7 percent in December and 4.6 percent in January 2008.

The news comes as state Rep. Brad Witt is leading an effort in the state Capitol to broaden unemployment benefits.

The county's rate was less than the statewide rate of 9.9 percent, but slightly above the national rate, which is 7.2.

Total employment in the county dropped by 406 from the previous month to 18,616 in January. The estimated number of unemployed people rose by 380 to 1,854. The number of unemployed this January was 781 more than one year before but 81 more people were employed this January.

The private sector eliminated 270 jobs and governments shed 60.

Leisure and hospitality employment fell by 50 jobs, non durable goods manufacturing cut 120, and retail trade dropped 120 jobs.

From January 2008 to January 2009, construction, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services all shed jobs in Clatsop County while private educational and health services, food manufacturing and local government added employment.

Columbia County's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 10.2 percent in January, a significant increase from 9.4 percent in December and 5.7 percent in January 2008.

Tillamook County's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in January, a significant increase from 6.9 percent in December and 4.8 percent the year before.

Meanwhile, Brad Witt is asking fellow Oregon lawmakers to support a campaign to broaden unemployment benefits.

The House Business and Labor Committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, on Monday held its first public hearing on HB 2624. The bill, whose chief sponsor is Witt, D-Clatskanie, which would create a new category of workers eligible for unemployment benefits and would offer worker training as a new benefit.

State Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland. has a companion bill moving through the State Senate.

"A lot of Oregonians are out of work," Witt said. "Many more can only find part time or temporary work, and are unable to pay their bills. This bill will help workers now and allow them to obtain the skills they need to participate in the new economy - even after we rebound from this crisis."

HB 2624 would allow "economically distressed" workers - those who are unemployed, employed, but earning less than 110 percent of the minimum wage, or employed, but only on a temporary or part-time basis - to collect unemployment benefits.

"Economically distressed" workers would also be eligible for worker training to prepare them for gainful employment.

Oregon's unemployment rate is 9.9 percent. In many rural counties, the number is well into double digits and job losses have averaged nearly 9,000 per month over the past six months. The hardest hit sectors include transportation, manufacturing and construction. Many forest products workers have experienced mill closures and need to find work.

"In these dire economic times, as the floodwaters of this crisis reach higher, we need to protect more of our fellow Oregonians who are facing challenges," said Witt.