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SALEM, OR-For the first time in 33 months, Oregon’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is below 7%, having fallen from 7.2% to 6.7% during this past month, according to the Oregon Employment Department. Not since July 2001 – when the rate was 6.4% – has Oregon’s unemployment rate been lower. Oregon’s unemployment rate has now dropped two full percentage points since reaching its recent high of 8.7% in July 2003.The state unemployment rate is now just 1.1 percentage points above the national rate, which declined from 5.7% to 5.6% in April. This is the closest the gap between the state and the nation since March 2001, when the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.3% and Oregon’s unemployment rate was 5.3%.Looking ahead, it appears the Oregon recovery will continue, albeit modestly, with employment growth forecast to grow 1.7% during this second quarter of the year and in the low 2% range for each of the next three quarters, state Department of Administration‘s Office of Economic Analysis.All told, 130,031 Oregonians were officially considered unemployed as of two weeks ago, which means the number of unemployed dropped by 20,319 during April. Meanwhile, payroll employment grew by 13,400 jobs during the month, which is 8,600 jobs above the normal seasonal movement. After a decline in January, seasonally adjusted total non-farm payroll employment has grown by 15,600 jobs in the first four months of the year.Two of the major industries contributed most of the April job gains: professional and business services (+5,100 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (+2,500 jobs). With the exception of government (-900 jobs), all other major industries showed flat or slight growth, posting seasonally adjusted changes of between zero and 600 jobs, according to the EED‘s monthly report.Manufacturing reported the third-most impressive numbers of the major industry categories. It grew by 1,600 jobs at a time of year when a job gain of 1,000 would have been the norm. Manufacturing is now up 4,600 jobs from April 2003, a 2.4% gain. Construction added 1,100 jobs to its payrolls in April. This gain was 200 jobs above the typical trend for April. Demand for commercial, industrial and office buildings may be firming, evidenced by the 500-job gain for the month in nonresidential building construction. Overall, construction is up 4,600 jobs from its year-ago figure for a gain of 6.3%.Retail trade added 1,100 jobs in April after three months of no growth. Motor vehicle and parts dealers reported a gain of 800 jobs for the month. General merchandise also grew significantly by 600 jobs, followed by building material and garden supply stores, which added 400 jobs. A large loss of 1,100 jobs was reported in food and beverage stores. In total, retail trade was 400 jobs below its year-ago level.Government employment dropped by 2,000 in April. Losses were concentrated in state government, which cut 1,900 jobs after an unusual gain of 2,000 jobs in March. In local government, education cut 200 jobs in April and is down 500 jobs since April 2003.

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