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Washington County continued to lead the Portland metropolitan area in job growth in July, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

All counties in the area posted lower unemployment rates than any time during the past two years, with Washington County the lowest at 6.8 percent. That compares to the national unemployment rate of 7.7 percent in July.

Westside Economic Alliance Director Pam Treece said the group is pleased with the news, but pointed out that more jobs need to be created.

“We are proud of the work that we have done collectively to ensure economic growth in Washington County. But while we are happy about the unemployment growth, we must continue to address the poverty issues that exist in our county and the entire metro area,” said Treece, whose organization includes elected officials and business leaders in Washington County and western Clackamas County.

According to the most recent statistics from the Oregon Employment Department, Washington County saw the biggest job gains in the July in professional services; leisure and hospitality; and trade, transportation and utilities segments of the economy.

“Traditionally, Washington County has demonstrated relatively low unemployment rates within the Portland metropolitan area, so this finding is not unique to this report,” said Todd Johnson, an economist with the bureau.

The statistical area tracked by the bureau includes seven counties in Oregon and Washington. The second lowest was Clackamas County at 7.3 percent. It was followed by Multnomah County at 7.4 percent, Yamhill County at 8.1 percent, Columbia County at 8.5 percent, Clark County at 8.6 percent and Skamania County at 9.0 percent.

Clark County in Washington had the largest unemployment rate decline from July 2012 to July 2013, dropping 2.2 percentage points.

According to Johnson, county unemployment rates are affected by various factors. The statistics measure workers by place of residence. For example, if there are towns, or even suburbs, in one county that are relatively wealthy compared to the others in the metro area, unemployment is generally lower. Workers in counties in this category could either be commuting to another county or there could be companies within the county with higher employment, thus attracting workers.

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