Oregon unemployment rate falls as state adds 5,400 jobs

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Oregon's jobless rate has fallen to its lowest point in more than five years as the pace of economic expansion pushes employers to hire more help.

Because the recovery from the Great Recession has been tepid, many employers haven't been taking on new workers.

But hiring is accelerating, and employers are filling jobs, State Employment Economist Nick Beleiciks said Tuesday.

"They really seem to have reached the point where they need to hire more people to get work done," he said.

The Employment Department's monthly jobs report puts the unemployment rate for November at 7.3 percent. It was 7.6 percent the month before.

November's figure is the lowest the Oregon unemployment rate has been since September 2008, when it was 7.2 percent.

Although the rate is still above the national average of 7 percent, the department says the gap has been closing.

The department said federal estimates show the state added 5,400 nonfarm payroll jobs in November, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Job growth has been recorded in 12 of the last 14 months.

The number of people in the Oregon workforce rebounded in November, another positive signal. It has fallen by about 35,000 since last November and stands at 1.92 million. But the November figure is up by more than 6,000 from the previous month.

Beleiciks said the end of federal extended unemployment benefits expected as a result of the budget deal working its way through the Congress won't affect the unemployment rate, so long as people who lose benefits don't quit looking for work.

About 20,000 Oregonians now get the extended federal benefits. The Employment Department says slightly more than a tenth may be eligible for state-funded benefits, leaving about 17,800 without benefits.

About 130,000 Oregonians are unemployed, about 40 percent of them for more than six months.