Oregon unemployment rate edges down to 8.8 percent

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's unemployment rate continues to edge down, as employers reported cutting fewer jobs than is typical in January.

The state Employment Department reported Tuesday the jobless rate for January was 8.8 percent, down from 9.0 in December.

The department's monthly report said that on a seasonally adjusted basis, Oregon gained 5,400 jobs in January — the largest single-month gain since the previous January.

"That was a nice surprise," said the department's employment economist, Nick Beleiciks.

The report said 33,000 jobs were cut, when the normal reduction in nonfarm payroll employment would be 38,400.

Seasonal adjustment is a common way of presenting employment statistics to allow them to reflect underlying trends. It takes into account such seasonal patterns as reduced winter workforces in timbering or holiday hiring among retailers.

Manufacturing showed particular strength in January, with a loss of only 700 jobs, the report said. A typical cut would be 2,400. The report said two sectors, fabricated metal products and machinery manufacturing, have been adding significantly to their payrolls over the past two years.

Oregon's employment rate peaked at 11.6 percent in May and June 2009. It hasn't been lower than 8.8 percent since November 2008, as the Great Recession deepened. That month, it was 8.4 percent.

As in Oregon, the national jobless rate has been moving down, and in January, was at 8.3 percent.

The number of unemployed people in Oregon stood at about 190,000 in January, about 22,000 fewer than in the previous January.

The department also said its annual process of revising employment numbers showed that the Oregon economy was "modestly stronger" than originally reported in late 2010 and "somewhat weaker" than originally reported during much of 2011.