SALEM - Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in March, essentially unchanged from 8.7 percent in February. The February figure was originally reported as 8.8 percent. Oregon's unemployment rate dropped a full percentage point from 9.6 percent in March 2011. Meanwhile, the U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in March and 8.3 percent in February.

Industry Payroll Employment (Establishment Survey Data)

Oregon's seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment was nearly unchanged in March, as it dropped by 300. The February figure was revised substantially to now show a loss of only 2,800 jobs; originally the February job loss was reported as more than double that decline.

In March, two of the major industry categories added close to 1,000 jobs: trade, transportation, and utilities (+1,000 jobs) and other services (+900). These gains were checked by declines of 800 jobs apiece in government, professional and business services, and educational and health services.

Trade, transportation, and utilities added 1,400 jobs in March, when a gain of only 400 is the normal seasonal pattern. Both wholesale trade and retail trade added slightly more jobs than anticipated, while transportation, warehousing, and utilities added 500. This broad sector has continued its moderate economic expansion for more than two years.

Leisure and hospitality is coming off its low point of the year, which is typically January. In January, it employed 157,700. By March the industry was up to 162,100 jobs. Last summer, it peaked at 175,500, so look for leisure and hospitality to rise above 177,000 jobs by the end of the summer if recent trends continue. Food services and drinking places ramped up employment over the past two years. It was up 3,900 jobs or 3.3 percent since March 2011.

Government employment performed below normal seasonal expectations in March with a gain of only 600 jobs at a time of year when a gain of 1,400 is the norm. Over the past 12 months, federal government has seen steep cutbacks, with employment down 900 since March 2011. Meanwhile, local government education was far below its year-ago figure as well, as 4,500 jobs have been cut over the 12 months through March 2012.

Showing an opposite trend to their local government counterparts, state government education gained 1,000 jobs from March of last year to March 2012. Meanwhile, the rest of state government cut 1,000 jobs over that period, leaving overall state government employment flat over the year.

Hours and Earnings

(Establishment Survey Data)

The average workweek for Oregon manufacturing production workers rebounded in March to 40.2 from 39.5 in February. In December, these workers averaged 41.0 hours per week. Over the longer term, this average workweek has erratically expanded since plunging below 36 hours per week in early 2009.

Average earnings of all private-sector payroll employees in Oregon dipped slightly to $22.11 per hour in March from $22.25 in February. The March figure was up 49 cents per hour, or 2.0 percent, from March 2011.


(Household Survey Data)

The national unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in March, while Oregon's rate was 8.6 percent. The difference between the Oregon and the U.S. unemployment rates was not statistically significant.

The latest figures indicate that Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has generally been on a declining trend for nearly three years, after reaching a high point of 11.6 percent in May and June 2009. At 8.6 percent in March, it has not been lower since November 2008, when Oregon's rate was 8.4 percent.

In March, 183,314 Oregonians were unemployed. This is 19,788 fewer individuals than in March 2011 when 203,102 Oregonians were unemployed.

Next Press Releases

The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the March county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Monday, April 23rd and the statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for April on Tuesday, May 15th.

For many years, monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas were developed by Oregon Employment Department economists.

In March 2011, responsibility for the monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas shifted to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The estimates developed by BLS are more heavily dependent on the sample of businesses and less reliant on knowledge of local economic events. They are also likely to demonstrate increased month-to-month variability.

Comments or questions should be directed to Graham Slater, Administrator of the Oregon Employment Department's Workforce and Economic Research Division, at (503) 947-1212.

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