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Posts tagged as “unemployment rates”

First take

There's been the sense over the last couple of years that the economy has been improving gradually, and it has, but now for the first time in a long time we see the B word - for "boom." It's being spoken of in Oregon, though, even as the unemployment rate bumped last month to 5.9 percent from 5.5 percent the month before - the reason being that the labor market is growing rapidly, with more people arriving in the state and otherwise entering. The key bit of news was that Oregon picked up 4,600 new jobs, just about doubling the number from the month before. Yet to be seen: Thorough breakdowns of where and what they are. - rs

Since October of ’83

Going back a few years, remembering the fall of 1983 - October specifically - in Idaho. I was in Pocatello then, and the city seemed almost to be gasping for air . . . which is to say, business and jobs. A chunk of the downtown shuttered; a big factory in operation since World War II shut down. Hard times.

With that in mind, news today from the Idaho Department of Labor:

June’s rate was the highest jobless rate since October 1983 when the state was pulling out of the double-dip recession that ushered in a major economic shift from natural resources to services augmented by some expanded advanced manufacturing – particularly in the high technology sector.

Another 3,400 Idaho workers lost their jobs in June, driving the number of unemployed to over 62,000 for the first time ever. Over 40,000 of those workers shared $59 million in unemployment insurance benefits paid out during the month. A year ago, Idaho’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, and the number of workers without jobs was under 36,000.

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.