Hard hat

Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent in December, the lowest on comparable records dating back to 1976. The November unemployment rate was 3.9 percent.

“The latest estimates suggest there are fewer unemployed Oregonians now than at any point since 1976, when comparable records began,” said Nick Beleiciks, systems and economic analysis manager at the Oregon Employment Department, in a press release. “That’s especially striking considering Oregon’s labor force is twice as large as it was 44 years ago.”

In December, many of Oregon’s workforce metrics set records, indicating an increasingly tight labor market. The number of people who were unemployed for less than half a year dropped to the lowest level in at least 18 years. The number of people who were unemployed due to a layoff also dropped to the lowest level in the past two decades.

The broadest measure of labor underutilization, called “U-6,” came in at the lowest on records dating back nearly two decades. This measure includes the unemployed, plus those who want a full-time job but are working part-time due to the economy.

Total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 800 jobs in December, following a gain of 3,800 jobs, as revised, in November. December gains were strongest in leisure and hospitality (+2,000 jobs). In addition, several industries added between 300 and 500 jobs. Meanwhile, two industries declined by more than 500 jobs: health care and social assistance (-900 jobs) and professional and business services (-1,600 jobs).

Oregon’s over-the-year job growth of 1.4 percent equaled the U.S. job growth of 1.4 percent. Most of Oregon’s major industries expanded by between 1 percent and 3 percent since December 2018. The fastest growing industries in the past 12 months were private educational services (+1,300 jobs, or 3.6 percent) and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+2,100 jobs, or 3 percent). In that time, only two industries cut jobs: retail trade (-700 jobs, or -0.3 percent) and mining and logging (-300 jobs, or -4.2 percent).

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