PORTLAND — Oregon broke a seven-month streak of job gains last month, shedding 9,500 jobs after gaining 7,400 in July.
The state’s jobless rate climbed to 4.1 percent, up from 3.8 percent in July. Oregon unemployment hit an all-time low of 3.6 percent in May.
State economists said August’s drop in jobs is more evidence that Oregon’s long economic expansion is slowing, but they noted that state employment is still up 2.4 percent from a year ago.
“August’s job losses were an unusually sharp departure from months of very large job gains,” said Oregon employment economist Nick Beleiciks. “But looking past recent gains and losses, Oregon’s over-the-year job growth continues to be very good.”
Oregon’s biggest job losses were in leisure and hospitality, government, financial activities and wholesale trade. The state endured several high-profile layoffs over the summer, including job cuts at SolarWorld, SureID and Nike. Those job losses may or may not be reflected in the August data, though, depending on the timing of when each job cut took place.
Another measure of unemployment, the U-6 or “underemployment” rate, climbed to 8.0 percent in August from 7.7 percent the prior month. The U-6 rate also remains near an all-time low, however.
Despite the strong job market, wages in Oregon and across the country have been largely stagnant since the Great Recession. The U.S. Census Bureau released new national data Tuesday that shows pay is up only marginally.
“Household incomes for most Americans and Oregonians have been flat for 15-20 years at this point, however there are fluctuations around this stagnant trend,” Oregon economist Josh Lehner wrote Tuesday in a post for the state’s Office of Economic Analysis.
“To date we’re on the upward trend but incomes are still at or below where they were in the late 1990s. Should the expansion continue for another year or three, household incomes will finally break through this long-run malaise,” Lehner wrote. “We are getting there, it’s just been a long and painful road.”