SALEM, OR-Unemployment in Oregon spiked in August to rise above the 7% level for the first time since the end of the first quarter, according to a Thursday report by the Oregon Employment Department. In part due to a below-average performance in trade, transportation and utilities, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rose from 6.8% at the end of July to 7.4% at the end of August, according to the report.The last time the unemployment rate was above 7% was the end of March, when it was 7.2%. From April through July, the unemployment rate vacillated between 6.7% and 6.9%. Prior to that time, Oregon’s unemployment rate had been on a steep declining trend from the peak of 8.7% in June and July 2003 to the low point of 6.7% in April. The last time the unemployment rate was above 7.4% was January 2004 when the rate was 7.7%.At the national level, the US unemployment rate dropped from 5.5% in July to 5.4% in August. The US unemployment rate has dropped almost one full percentage point since reaching a recent peak of 6.3% in June 2003.OED economist David Cooke tells that some of the change in Oregon’s rate can be explained by above average hiring over the past few months–due to better-than-expected weather conditions–being offset by below average hiring now. “Some of it is a balancing out because the spring was stronger than normal,” he says. “It was a dry spring so construction and manufacturing made their hires early.”According to the report, seasonally adjusted payroll employment declined by 900 jobs in August, after an upwardly revised gain of 2,000 jobs in July. Looking at specific industries, the report shows that trade, transportation, and utilities added 500 jobs for the month, when a gain of 1,500 would be the normal seasonal change for August, after dropping 2,000 jobs in July. The slippages in growth follow solid gains during the first half of the year, when seasonally adjusted employment grew by 8,500. Every other major industry performed close to its normal seasonal trend for the month, according to the report. Government jobs were cut back by 1,700, which was 500 larger than the normal reduction for the month. However, construction added 2,200 jobs, 300 more than the typical August gain. Construction has been one of the leading economic engines in Oregon this year, according to the report. The construction industry’s August gain puts it at 86,600 jobs, which is about 5% above its level of last August. Also up by 5% over last year is professional and business services, which accounts for one in nine payroll jobs.

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