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|Wednesday, February 01, 2006|
By Brandon Sawyer
Oregon’s unemployment rate — a persistent sore spot for politicians and business groups — was the nation’s highest or second-highest state rate for 43 consecutive months (April 2001 to October 2004) according to Art Ayre, state employment economist. frictional, cyclical and structural. Ayre says all three have converged to drive up Oregon’s rate during and after the recession of 2001. The most common component, frictional, includes people who are attempting to change careers, who have recently moved to the state without a job, who live in isolated rural areas Lately, the rate has trended down toward what some economists have viewed as an “optimal rate,” about 5.5%. At 5.7% in December, it remains nearly a percentage point above the national rate of 4.9%. As of November, it is the eighth-highest rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Economists identify three unemployment components — where job searches take longer and those who work in highly seasonal industries such as agriculture and food processing. The state has a relatively large proportion of people meeting such criteria. Oregon having the second-highest state-mandated minimum wage in the nation could also contribute to a frictional effect, both by drawing more job candidates and discouraging additional hiring. Cyclical unemployment may weigh heavy on Oregon because some of its major industries, such as wood products and other durable goods, expand and contract faster than others in response to economic shifts. The downturn in high-tech industries about fi ve years ago severely tarnished the state’s employment picture. High tech will probably not recover to where it was in the late ’90s, says Ayre, but it should remain flat over the next 10 years. However, select industries, such as software publishing, seem to be making a comeback. The fi nal component, structural unemployment, includes the loss of jobs to cheaper labor overseas and the automation of industries that previously provided steady jobs. Oregon suffered such structural changes in its timber industry during the early ’80s, and like much of the United States, it has lost a signifi cant number of manufacturing jobs during the past decade. Regulation of the fishing industry and the rise in electricity prices for aluminum plants has also displaced workers in the region.
How it’s calculated
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the monthly Current Population Survey, which uses probability sampling to estimate national numbers of employed and unemployed persons. State-level data are combined with a time series model to produce state estimates. The survey categorizes respondents as follows:
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