Job growth returned to Oregon in January

Oregon’s unemployment rate nudged down to 6.2% in January, from a revised 6.3% in December. Data for February is expected next week.

While the state’s jobless rate remained practically unchanged in January, Oregon did turn a corner: It began adding jobs again.

Oregon picked up 8,300 nonfarm payroll jobs in January. That follows a harsh setback in December, when coronavirus restrictions contributed to a net loss of 27,500 jobs. Months of job gains ground to a halt.

But in January, they began again.

Three sectors — retail trade, leisure and hospitality, and private educational services — all added close to 2,000 jobs, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

“It’s really heartening, to me, to see one of the industries — leisure and hospitality — with the largest deficit from the pandemic have one of the largest gains in January,” said Gail Krumenauer, an Employment Department economist.

Leisure and hospitality businesses remain diminished by the pandemic, however. State data show the sector is down almost 77,000 jobs — or more than one-third — from January 2020.

The only sector to add jobs in the past year was transportation, warehousing and utilities.

Overall, Oregon is still down 162,800 jobs since January 2020.

The Employment Department recently conducted its annual revision of labor force data. But this year, because of the pandemic, it went back further in time — all the way to 1976.

It found that the unemployment rate at the height of the coronavirus recession was somewhat lower than previously thought. The revised jobless rate for April 2020 now stands at 13.2%, rather than 14.9%.

That’s still a record high in Oregon, as far back as comparable data goes.