Employers in Douglas County added a net of 150 jobs in March, following a gain of 220 jobs in February and a loss of 30 in January, according to data released Tuesday by the Oregon Employment Department.
Douglas County has gained back 69% of the jobs lost in April and May at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. In the private-sector industries in March, there was a significant gain of 100 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector, the employment department said. Smaller gains of 20 jobs each occurred in construction and private education/health services.
There was a net loss of 20 jobs in professional and business services, according to employment department data. Government added 80 jobs from gains in local government, of 60 jobs, and federal government, of 20.
When comparing March 2021 with March 2020, total nonfarm employment is down 1,080 jobs, or 2.8%, the employment department said. All major private industry sectors are down over the year except wholesale trade, which added 50 jobs. Food and beverage stores, a subcategory of retail trade, had a relatively large gain of 70 jobs and state government had a gain of 20.
Douglas County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 6.6% in March, compared with a revised 6.2% in February. The rate is up from 4.3% in March 2020.
The unemployment rate and the payroll employment data come from two different surveys, which helps explain why unemployment inched up in March despite employers adding more jobs, said Brian Rooney, a regional economist with the employment department. The unemployment rate comes from a household survey and is combined with benefit data to produce the local estimate of the unemployed, Rooney said. Payroll employment data, meanwhile, is an estimate based on employer responses. Sometimes they move in counter-intuitive directions, he said.
To be counted as unemployed you have to be temporarily unemployed, but still connected to an employer, or have looked for work in the past four weeks. It is likely that as people are getting vaccinated and schools reopen, which helps with childcare, people are entering the labor force by looking for work and are therefore counted as unemployed, Rooney said. So, there could be more people entering the labor force as unemployed than retuning to payroll employment, he said.
The Douglas County rate had been tracking closely with the statewide and national rates before March. The Oregon seasonally adjusted March rate was 6% and the U.S. rate was also 6% for the month.
Scott Carroll can be reached at [email protected] or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.