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Job gains rose, unemployment rate barely fell in Oregon last month

For the third month in a row, Oregon’s unemployment rate barely budged — ticking down to 6.0% in March from 6.1% in February.

The national unemployment rate was also 6.0%.

The numbers went in the right direction, though. March marked three straight months of job gains in Oregon, after a grim December. And those gains have been increasing each month. The more than 20,000 nonfarm payroll jobs added last month are the most the state has picked up since July 2020, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

“The new data shows what we are expecting is the beginning of a robust recovery,” wrote economist Josh Lehner in a later release from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.

Oregonians returned to businesses such as restaurants, bars and fitness centers in greater numbers last month, and it showed. Leisure and hospitality employers added 13,900 jobs — the lion’s share of the state’s employment gains.

Recovery still has a long way to go, Lehner said. Oregon has regained a little more than half of the jobs it lost between February and April of last year.

“Even with a strong recovery expected, it will take some time before we fully regain all of the lost jobs,” Lehner wrote. “The COVID recession was, and is, that deep.”

His office’s current projections have Oregon returning to pre-pandemic employment by early 2023.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting