Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: April 18, 2009”

Why the rate

Unemployment rate numbers, read in fine grain, have for a long time seemed a little less than perfect measures. (We never bought the office state stats, for example, that Idaho's unemployment rate in October 2007 was 2.5%, when 3% is the norm for something approaching full employment, and employers didn't seem that desperate for help.) So what should we make of the reports out now that Oregon has the second-highest unemployment (now at 12.1%) in the nation, behind Michigan with its collapsing auto industry?

First, a note of context: Oregon is hurting in this depression, alongside the other states. There's been no lack of shutdowns and layoffs. Times are tough in Oregon too - but, that much worse than in so many other states? Doesn't feel that way: Bad, yes, but not that much worse.

In good times as well as bad, Oregon's unemployment rates have tended to run higher than average. Might there be something systemic, or something unusual about Oregon, that contributes?

Evidently there is, outlined neatly in an Oregonian piece this morning. Oregon turns out to be one of those places people are reluctant to leave, and when times get tough they hang in there. It has a good reputation as a good place to live, and so becomes something of a magnet for people around the country when they're out of work and looking for a new place to start over. (The place keeps harking back to its earliest days.) A number of other states, notably Nevada and California, seem to shed people more rapidly when the jobs go away - people who go to places like Oregon. All of this drives up the numbers of the unemployed, creating a higher rate.

This isn't just raw speculation; stats to back it up are available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in March, when Oregon lost 77,000 jobs, the state's available labor force rose by 58,000 - some of them newly looking for work, some of them arriving from elsewhere even though there was no work for them.

Helps to know what lies behind the numbers.

Extending the string at Lewiston


Lewiston Tribune

The Lewiston Tribune has a long tradition - very long, reaching back into the 50s at least - of publishing outstanding editorials. They have long had personality and bite, and often humor as well. They've leaned left but been such attention grabbers that execs at the paper (which is locally owned) call them real moneymakers: They're likely to get people talking and paying attention to the paper, in a way most editorials in most newspapers seldom have.

The central figure in that bit of newspaper history was for many years Bill Hall, who started writing editorials at the Trib in 1965 and (with a short 18-month hiatus) kept at it till he retired in 2002. His successor was Jim Fisher, who'd written edits alongside Hall for many years and whose style significantly overlapped. Now Fisher is retiring, so a real question has been: Does financially-strapped Lewiston (which recently cut the editorial page staff from two to one) keep the tradition alive?

Looks like it will, having just hired for the job Marty Trillhaase, who has been editorial editor at the Idaho Falls Post-Register. A bit of disclosure is needed: We've been friends with Trillhaase for a good many years, back when he worked at the Idaho Statesman in Boise, and at the Tribune before that, the Moscow paper before that, and Twin Falls . . . He's been around the state, and very highly regarded everywhere. At Idaho Falls he has been for more than a decade writing many of the best editorials in the state, as even those who disagree with him typically acknowledge.

Now, as for the Post Register . . . Following Trillhaase's tradition may be a challenge all its own.