Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.7% in December, the lowest on record dating back to 1976, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Nick Beleiciks, an economic analysis manager at the department, said the latest estimates suggest there are fewer unemployed Oregonians now than at any point since comparable records began.

“That’s especially striking considering Oregon’s labor force is twice as large as it was 44 years ago,” Beleiciks said in a statement.

State economist David Cooke said the unemployment rate has been around 4% for the past three years — it was 3.9% for November. As a result, Cooke said Oregon’s economy is experiencing an increasingly tight labor market.

“The number of people who have been unemployed for less than half a year dropped to 64,300 people in December, the lowest on record dating back almost 20 years,” Cooke said.

“That figure had been up to as high as 180,000 during the recession.”

Oregon saw payroll employment jump by 800 jobs overall in December, following a gain of 3,800 jobs in November as revised by the department. Jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry saw the biggest gain with over 2,000 jobs.

Industries that took a loss were professional and business services, cutting 1,600 jobs, and health care and social assistance, cutting 900 jobs in the course of the month.

While health care and social assistance jobs were cut in December, the industry is rapidly growing, adding 7,000 jobs over the past 12 months in Oregon at a 2.7% gain. Some of the fastest-growing industries in Oregon over the past 12 months were private educational services, transportation, warehousing and utilities. Retail trade, mining and logging saw a net loss of jobs over the year.

Oregon’s over-the-year job growth in 2019 was 1.4%, matching the rate of national job growth. Most of Oregon’s major industries expanded between 1% and 3% since December 2018.

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