Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.9% in August from 5.2% in July, marking the first time the state’s unemployment rate dipped below 5% since March 2020, when the rate was 3.6%.

Oregon’s unemployment rate was below 5% in only two other periods since 1976, when comparable records began: during 14 consecutive months in the mid-1990s when the rate dropped to as low as 4.5%; and during the 51 consecutive months during 2016 through March 2020, when the rate dropped to a record low of 3.3% in late 2019.

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 5.2% in August from 5.4% in July. Numbers for the August unemployment rate in Douglas County are scheduled to be released next week.

Statewide, nonfarm payroll employment grew by 7,900 jobs in August, following monthly gains averaging 10,300 in the prior seven months. Gains in August were largest in government (+3,500 jobs); wholesale trade (+1,400); leisure and hospitality (+1,200); and professional and business services (+1,000).

Only one major industry cut jobs — retail trade, which shedded 1,900 jobs.

Since the low point of April 2020, at the economic depths of the COVID-induced recession, Oregon has recovered 204,700 jobs, or 72% of the jobs lost during the recession.

Leisure and hospitality added 1,200 jobs in August, following a gain of 6,100, as revised, in July. Despite these gains, it still accounts for the bulk of Oregon’s jobs not recovered since early 2020, with 44,300 jobs left to recover to reach the prior peak month of February 2020.

The industry has regained 60% of jobs lost early in the pandemic.

Employment in health care and social assistance has been relatively flat all year. This major industry recovered substantial jobs in mid- through late-2020, but is still down 10,400 jobs, or 4%, since its pre-recession peak of February 2020.

Over the past year, nursing and residential care facilities has been especially weak, having lost 1,300 jobs since August 2020. Meanwhile, two component industries have expanded in the past 12 months: ambulatory health care services added 3,100 jobs, and social assistance added 1,100 jobs.

The Oregon Employment Department is scheduled to release the August unemployment rates for counties and metropolitan areas on Sept. 21.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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