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Portland's jobless jump

second-highest in nation

The Portland area lost 26,800 jobs last year, led by the shrinkage of payrolls in construction and business services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each of those industries laid off more than 5,000 workers.

The business services category includes many of the computer and high-tech jobs that disappeared. The statistics bureau counts 2,400 jobs lost from electronics and related equipment companies in the metro area last year, and it says companies in transportation equipment, such as trucks, let 2,400 workers go.

The public saw signs of those mounting numbers when layoff announcements came from companies such as Freightliner, Fujitsu, Gunderson and LSI.

Bureau economist Todd Johnson says Portland's jobless rate in December 2001 was 7 percent, the second-highest in the country for a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people.

Miami had the highest unemployment for large metro areas, at 7.6 percent. New York, after the Sept. 11 attacks, ended the year right behind Portland with a 6.5 percent jobless rate.

'Part of it has to do with the industry makeup in the area, and the reliance on manufacturing,' said economist Steve Williams, of the Oregon Employment Department. Businesses slowed their purchases and inventories built up, he explained.

In December 2000, the Portland area's jobless rate was 3.1 percent. The leap to 7 percent by December 2001 was the nation's second-highest increase among large metropolitan areas. San Jose, Calif., had the highest increase: 4.8 percentage points.

Business group revives

push for rainy day fund

Oregon lawmakers who squelched the idea of a 'rainy day fund' for the state will be hearing about that plan again today at the start of the Legislature's special session as the Oregon Business Association makes its case for setting aside a pot of money.

The business group is reviving its campaign for what it has called an economic security fund, arguing that it's times like this when Oregon needs such a fallback account.

'We need to be prepared next time better than we are now,' association spokeswoman Margaret Hunt says.

Hunt says the business group has not decided whether to push for a ballot measure if the proposal doesn't go anywhere in the special session.

The group backed a bill in the last legislative session to create an economic security fund. The House approved it, but a Senate committee rejected it.

The business association has about 200 members, ranging from giants such as Fred Meyer and Nike to two- and three-person operations.

Attorney general lists

top consumer complaints

A Nigerian money transfer scam prompted so many complaints from Oregonians last year Ñ 549 Ñ that it topped Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers' 2001 Top 10 Consumer Complaints list.

The scam has totally depleted some victims' bank accounts, according to Myers' office.

Targets of the long-lived scam typically receive an unsolicited but official-sounding fax, e-mail or letter about the sender's need for help in getting millions of dollars out of the country. The victim is asked to help by providing a bank account that the sender can use for the temporary safekeeping of the money in return for a share of it.

The Oregon Department of Justice shares complaints and information about the scam with the FBI and the Secret Service.

By category, telecommunications prompted the highest share of the 14,015 written complaints received by the Justice Department. Problems ranged from frustrations about 'slamming' Ñ switching customers' long-distance service without their permission Ñ to 'cramming' Ñ charges on phone bills for services that weren't ordered, authorized, received or used.

Most complaints were against long-distance companies, followed by cellular companies and local telephone service.

Portland Tribune places

in national contest

The Portland Tribune won third place in the Inland Press Foundation's Nation's Best Non-Daily Newspaper competition.

The Tribune placed in the category of non-daily newspapers with a circulation of more than 10,000, a group that included entries from 30 newspapers nationwide. Two other categories in the contest judged non-daily newspapers with circulation of fewer than 10,000.

The judges called The Tribune 'a graphic grabber. Big, beautiful, colorful photos dominate section covers that are packed with a variety of sprightly stories. A visual feast, but content merits display effort.'

The contest judged newspapers' ability to attract readership, design for readability, provide good community coverage and provide quality writing and execution.

The Inland Press Foundation has nearly 800 members, including dailies and weeklies. Entries for the contest's three categories came from 36 states.

Old Town mission plans

new building, services

The Union Gospel Mission in Portland's Old Town is laying plans for a new $4 million, five-story building by Thanksgiving 2003, a deadline the organization's executive director, Bill Russell, readily concedes is an ambitious one.

The firm of SERA Architects is designing the building. The mission plans to build its new home next to its long-standing location at 15 N.W. Third Ave.

Russell says the bigger building will help the organization more than double its long-term treatment program for drug and alcohol abusers. Russell says the recovery program now can treat 30 people at the most, while the expanded facilities will let it work with as many as 75 clients.

The fund-raising campaign has yet to start officially. Russell, however, says the mission already has $1.5 million in hand and in pledges, including a $1.2 million lead gift.

The new building will look like the neighborhood's other historic structures, with brick masonry, glass, steel and precast concrete accents.

Ñ Nevill Eschen