New statistics on Oregon's unemployment level out yesterday suggest the state may be moving out of the worst period in its unemployment history. Statewide unemployment is now at 11.3 percent, according to the Oregon Employment Department, down almost a full percent from 12.2 percent in May, at the peak of unemployment.
“It looks like this could be the beginning of a positive trend,” says Christian Kaylor, a workforce analyst with the OED. “Certainly the worst seems to have passed, although I would want to see the trend continue for three to six months to make sure we don’t have some kind of double dip situation.”
Portland's Metro area accounts for more than half of the statewide data, and the Portland figures are due out early next week, so this is a good indicator for Portland.
Kaylor says Oregon has tied its worst unemployment in history, in 1983. "It looked like we were going to pass that number, now it looks like we won't, that we just matched it," he says.
But the country as a whole is now on the 24 month anniversary of losing jobs every month. "That's incredible," says Kaylor. "It's happened in previous recessions for six to 12 months, but for 24 months, that's unheard of."
Unemployment figures may be down, but continued net job loss in the Portland Metro area isn't reversing along with unemployment, either. In the last 12 months, the Portland Metro area has lost 60,800 jobs, which accounts for 5.9 percent of all 975,800 jobs. The unemployment rate peaked in May, "but even since then, we have lost 14,000 jobs in the Portland Metro area," says Kaylor.
So, while the unemployment rate is falling, those numbers suggest people may be leaving the workforce—deciding to stop looking for work, or physically leaving the state. "People may be deciding to go live in their mom's basement, take anti-depressants, and play X-box," says Kaylor. "They have essentially given up."
But there are options! "You could go back to school, or you could join the military," he says.
Analysts expect national net job loss to end in early 2010. "That point is coming," says Kaylor. "But then the scariest question is, when are we going to start seeing these jobs coming back? People talk about 2011, 2012, and 2013, and it gets pretty scary when we're looking that far out at when businesses are going to start hiring again with robustness."