Oregon jobless rate rises slightly to 10.6 percent

The state's unemployment rate remained stubbornly high last month, with more than 10 percent of job seekers unable to find work, officials reported Tuesday.The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July was 10.6 percent, up slightly from the June rate of 10.5 percent. The rate has barely...

The state's unemployment rate remained stubbornly high last month, with more than 10 percent of job seekers unable to find work, officials reported Tuesday.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July was 10.6 percent, up slightly from the June rate of 10.5 percent. The rate has barely budged since last fall, hovering for nine months between 10.5 percent and 10.7 percent.

"The numbers of people who've been unemployed for 52 weeks or more has really skyrocketed during this recession," said Tom Fuller, a spokesman for the state Employment Department. "And that's one of the reasons the unemployment rate is staying up there."

Nick Beleiciks, a state employment economist, said he doesn't expect a dramatic change in the months ahead. Even if the economy starts adding jobs, he said, the rate would likely remain high because people who have stopped looking for work would return to the hunt.

At an employment center in the Portland suburb of Tualatin, people freshly out of work were looking for jobs Tuesday along with those who haven't drawn a paycheck in years.

David Adams, of Tigard, said he has been trying to get a job since losing his position last month as a truck driver at the Portland International Airport. The 40-year-old father of four said jobs are scarce, and he's fortunate his wife is still employed.

"It's helping us, but I need a job, too," he said.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, 51, of Tualatin, said the competition is intense. Out of work for two years, he said it's a crapshoot whether employers flooded with resumes will even notice his pitch.

"I'm just kind of bitter about the whole thing," he said. "You send applications in and you get no response."

The Oregon employment report contained some bright spots, such as a 3,500-job gain in the construction industry and a 500-job boost in manufacturing. Those pluses were offset, however, by a decline in government employment. The government shed almost 33,000 jobs in July, a month when a loss of 27,700 jobs is expected because local schools employ fewer people.

Beleiciks attributed part of the drop to the end of some Census work.

To the north, Washington state's jobless rate fell to 8.9 percent in July — 0.6 percentage point below the nationwide rate. Though employment prospects seem dismal for many Oregonians, Beleiciks said there is no evidence that people are leaving in great numbers to find work elsewhere.

Fitzpatrick, for one, is sticking it out in Oregon.

"You can't give up; you've got to keep on trying," he said. "They say it's the law of averages, eventually you're going to find something. It might not be what you want, but it might be what you need to just get by."

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