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Jobless rate dips again, offers state a little hope

The recession in Oregon is far from over, but the employment numbers for April hint at a distant light at the end of the tunnel.

'The numbers don't suggest that we're there yet, but it does look like we're forming the base to start turning the corner,' said Art Ayre, the cautious economist for the Oregon Employment Department who interprets the employment data each month for the media.

For the second month in a row, the percentage of Oregonians in the state's labor force who can't find work dropped, falling to 7.5 percent from the 7.9 percent recorded for March. The February rate was 8.1 percent.

Still, the state's dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the nation remains safely in its grasp.

No other state is close enough to overtake Oregon, Ayre said. Washington was a distant second in March with a 6.8 percent rate and hasn't yet reported its April numbers.

Oregon's figures, made public Friday and based on a survey of households, show that 135,577 residents out of a total workforce of 1.8 million were unemployed in April. That was down from 155,575 in March.

Although improved, the April total is nonetheless grim compared to a year ago. In April 2001, when the state's unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, just 104,042 Oregonians were out of work.

But the hemorrhaging of jobs in the state has slowed, Ayre said. Monthly payroll surveys, separate from the household surveys, show that an average of 1,100 jobs per month have been lost so far this year, compared with 3,100 a month last year.

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