Oregon’s Unemployment Continues To Fall

Oregon’s unemployment rate edged down to 3.6 percent in May from 3.7 percent in April, reaching a new record low since comparable records began in 1976. Oregon’s rate was significantly below its year-ago rate of 5.0 percent in May 2016. The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in May 2017.As unemployment edged down, the labor force hit a record high. For the first time, in May, Oregon’s labor force rose above 2.1 million. The labor force grew by 40,000 in the first five months of this year.

In May, nonfarm payroll employment rose 2,900, following a gain of 6,800 in April. In May, gains were largest in construction, which added 1,600 jobs. Also, four major industries each added close to 800 jobs: manufacturing (+900 jobs), educational services (+800), professional and business services (+700), and leisure and hospitality (+700). Meanwhile, only two major industries experienced substantial cutbacks: other services (-1,000 jobs) and information (-600).

Construction continued to expand rapidly in May, rising to 97,700 jobs. After hovering near 70,000 jobs during 2010 through 2012, construction has expanded rapidly since 2013. Over the past 12 months construction’s component industries adding the most jobs were specialty trade contractors (+3,900 jobs), residential building construction (+2,300), and nonresidential building construction (+1,200).

Manufacturing added jobs this year, following little overall gains in 2016. In the first five months of this year, manufacturing added 4,300 jobs, with durable goods manufacturing up 1,700 and nondurable goods manufacturing up 2,600. Fabricated metal product manufacturing added 600 jobs in the past five months. Food manufacturing continued its steady gains of the past several years, with its May employment at 29,500 jobs, up 1,300 since May 2016.

Over the past 12 months, Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment rose 40,400, or 2.2 percent. This is faster than Oregon’s 1.5-percent average annual growth rate since 1990. But recent growth has moderated from growth near or above 3 percent throughout much of the past four years.