PORTLAND-Oregon saw above-normal job gains in most major industries in May, according to the latest report by the Oregon Employment Department. Overall payroll employment grew by 17,000 jobs, which is 6,000 jobs above the normal seasonal movement. The strong job growth follows similar gains in February, March and April.The state’s unemployment rate officially rose one-tenth of one percent from April to 6.8%, according to the report. Oregon’s unemployment rate has been on a generally declining trend since its recent peak of 8.7% in July 2003. The national unemployment rate has remained in the mid-5% range for the past six months.During the recession between December 2000 and June 2003, Oregon lost 65,400 jobs, seasonally adjusted, according to the report. Subsequently, payroll employment grew gradually through the end of last year, followed by accelerated gains over the past four months. This has resulted in gains of 36,400 since June 2003, the low point in the economic cycle. “The economy still must generate 29,000 more jobs to reach the all-time peak level, but with recent economic strength, Oregon is more than halfway there,” states OED economist David Cooke in the report.Looking ahead, Cooke tells GlobeSt.com that June likely will prove to be another strong month for employment, in part because capital goods spending, which our state economy is more dependent on than the nation as a whole, has been increasing rapidly this year compared to last year. “Our recovery is being led by business capital spending,” says Cooke.The construction industry added 3,200 jobs in May, a time of year when a gain of 1,300 would be the norm, according to the report. The boost in employment put construction at its highest seasonally adjusted employment level since March 2001. In May, all sectors within construction added jobs, including building construction (+600 jobs), heavy and civil engineering construction (+700), and specialty trade contractors (+1,900).The Trade, transportation and utilities category added about the same number of jobs as construction. Its total employment rose by 3,400 at a time of year when a gain of 1,800 would be the norm. Wholesale trade was particularly strong, adding 500 jobs. The industry is benefiting from an upturn in manufacturing activity. Retail trade added 2,600 jobs in May. Food and beverage stores reported 900 new jobs in May, making up ground from losses in April. General merchandise and gasoline stations each gained300 jobs. That helped to push retail trade up 1,400 jobs over its year-ago level.Manufacturing posted its fourth consecutive month of seasonally adjusted gains by adding 800 jobs in May. Transportation equipment added 600 jobs and is now up by 2,000 since last May. Computer and electronic product manufacturing posted its fourth consecutive gain. The 500 jobs added in May put this industry at 40,600 jobs, which was about the same level as in May through December of last year. Financial activities added 800 jobs in May, when a gain of 200 would be normal for the time of year. Despite the strong gain in May, this industry has been experiencing some fallout from rising home mortgage interest rates and has experienced slower growth in recent months than in the prior year. Some lenders have been reporting reductions in staff due to declining home refinancing activity, according to the report. Another finance industry – insurance carriers and related activities – saw essentially flat employment in May, but is down 900 jobs compared to May 2003. “This industry has seen some effects of automation, which has increased productivity and lessened demand for workers given modestly growing overall demand for the industry’s services,” states the report.Educational and health services dropped only 800 jobs in May at a time of year when job losses typically total 1,300. The greatest employment decline came in educational services, which lost 600 jobs due to the school year winding down at some private schools. Hospitals employment edged down by 100 jobs in May. This industry has grown by 900 in the past year, a growth rate of 1.9%, which is about the same rate as the overall economy since last May. This moderate growth follows a period of rapid expansion, when hospitals employment rose from 41,000 in mid-2000 to 47,000 at the end of 2002, according to the report.Information was the only other major industry to post an employment loss in May. It cut 300 jobs to tie its November reading of 33,100 as its lowest job level since March 1997. This industry has not seen the same upturn as many other Oregon industries, according to the report. Publishing industries, except internet is now down to 13,700 jobs from it peak of 17,400 in early 2001. And telecommunications, at 9,300 jobs, has remained below 10,000 for the past two years.

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