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Economic uptick needs nurturing

Our Opinion

A mixed bag of economic news - anecdotal and otherwise - offers some sense of hope that the Portland economy is entering a welcome, but excruciatingly slow recovery.

In last week's Portland Tribune, reporter Steve Law showcased evidence that the thaw has begun. One of those positive signs is that the state has reported an increase in the employment of temporary workers in four recent months. That's a significant trend, even if businesses remain nervous about hiring new, permanent employees.

On other fronts, Portland International Airport reports that travel is experiencing a slight uptick; a few Portland neighborhoods and suburbs are seeing limited construction again; and Realtors say homes are starting to sell - particularly if they are priced attractively or happen to be in foreclosure.

Meanwhile, the state Employment Department announced Oct. 12 that Oregon's unemployment rate fell from 12 percent in August to 11.5 percent in September. That means - for the first time in months - that Oregon's unemployment rate was not among the nation's highest.

But before we breathe a big sigh of relief and say economic recovery is in sight, we should realize that the news about jobs is still quite mixed. Oregon remains well above the national unemployment average of 9.8 percent, and September's unemployment rate in Oregon is almost 70 percent higher than it was a year ago - when the state's unemployment rate was 6.8 percent.

Despite the nascent evidence of a housing recovery, Oregon had the 11th-highest home foreclosure rate in the nation for the past three months. Compared with a year ago, foreclosures from July to September increased by 76.6 percent. We can only hope that this horrible trend slows and begins to reverse.

Just like the rest of the nation, as Oregon and Portland begin to climb out of the recession, good news - even if mixed or pint-sized - has to be celebrated as a sign of improvement and a chance for building positive economic momentum.

Such news provides even more impetus for public and private partnerships to focus on building economic results and confidence. This means investing to put more Oregonians back to work and to stimulate ever-greater activity in the marketplace.