From Graham Slater at the Employment Department:

OWIB Members,

A few minutes ago, we released the new employment and unemployment data for Oregon. The data were somewhat remarkable, for one key reason: Oregon’s unemployment rate fell below the national rate for the first time since January 1996.

Let me give you some added context and perspective on this.

  1. Employment has been growing strongly in Oregon for the past year. In fact, Oregon employment grew faster than the nation’s in both 2013 and 2014.
  2. Oregon’s unemployment rate didn’t change much during 2014, but it has declined a lot in the last three months. In January and February, Oregon had the biggest month-over-month unemployment rate declines of any state in the nation.
  3. The number of Oregonians unemployed for relatively short periods is lower now than it was before the recession started.This suggests that unemployed Oregonians are finding jobs very quickly. And in some cases, people are taking a new job while still employed in their old job, so they are never unemployed at all.
  4. The difference between Oregon’s 5.4% unemployment rate and the nation’s 5.5% is not statistically significant. So data purists would not be making comments like, “Oregon’s rate is lower than the nation’s.” In the real world, though, we recognize that there’s great public interest in the fact that Oregon’s rate is so often above the nation’s, and now – for the moment – it’s numerically below.
  5. The unemployment rate is based primarily on the national Current Population Survey, which has relatively small sample sizes in states like Oregon, and can therefore be quite volatile. It’s possible that six months from now, the unemployment rate will no longer be declining and might even have edged upwards, as different households are surveyed. So we don’t want people shocked if that happens.
  6. Oregon has been less impacted by some negative factors in recent months (e.g. declines in oil prices) and more impacted by some positive ones (e.g. bad weather in the east, mild weather in the northwest).

Oregon added 4,300 jobs in March, right in line with the average growth of the past year. Health care and social services was the industry with the most significant job growth, adding 1,700.

The takeaway message? Job growth is great. The unemployment rate is way down from where it was just a year or two ago. Oregon is seeing better growth and improvement than many states.

The full news release, with more numbers, is attached.