Oregon unemployment registers another uptick

Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent in December, marking the sixth consecutive month the state's jobless rolls have swelled, the Oregon Employment Department announced Friday.

Oregon's unemployment rate has been moving upward since December 2000, when it hit a low of 4.2 percent, and reached 7.4 percent in November, the highest in the nation.

A total of 129,500 Oregonians were out of work and actively looking for jobs last month, the department said. That number, which is 4,600 more than in the previous month, does not include 'discouraged workers' Ñ for which there is no monthly estimate Ñ who have given up seeking employment.

Retail hiring during the holiday season turned out to be less robust than in previous years, but not as weak as some had predicted. The number of jobs added between September and December was 11,300, only slightly less than the 12,300 hired during the holiday hiring season of 2000.

Industries that have been less affected by the economic downturn include health care, legal services, amusement and recreation, and industries related to retail food. Ski resorts, fitness clubs, movie theaters and video rental stores were among the businesses that added jobs in December.

Biotech firm runs with OHSU technologies

Virogenomics, a Portland biotech research firm, will test and market technologies developed at Oregon Health & Science University that could result in drugs to treat diseases ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis.

The company raised more than $2.1 million from investors in Oregon, across the country and in Europe, said Andrew Goldstein, Virogenomics' vice president of product development.

The arrangement is a 'sterling example' of the way OHSU will help the state become a leader in biotechnology, OHSU President Peter Kohler said.

Through the university's Oregon Opportunity initiative, Oregon-based private companies such as Virogenomics will develop and market discoveries made by OHSU medical researchers, he said.

Under the agreement, Virogenomics has licensed technologies for two research projects. One aims to produce a new class of drugs that will treat such autoimmune diseases as multiple sclerosis. Another technology will help researchers identify genes that seem to help viruses infect human beings.

Ñ Mary Bellotti

and Daniel J. Curran