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Unemployment rates reach historic lows across state

The unemployment rate in Oregon dropped to a record low in January, according to an Oregon Employment Department press release Tuesday, March 1.

The unemployment rate in Oregon dropped to 5.1 percent in January, an improvement from the 5.5 percent rate in December, the release states.

The statewide unemployment rate has not dropped to 5.1 percent since July 2007, the press release also stated. One year ago, the unemployment rate was 5.9 percent.

For Columbia County, the most recent data released for December shows a 6.8 percent unemployment rate.

However, the county experienced a significant drop in unemployment over the last year. County unemployment rates dropped from 7.7 in January to 6.8 percent in December, a 0.9 percent change. The change in state unemployment dropped from 5.9 to 5.5 percent in 2015, a 0.4 percent change.

Over the last year, manufacturing and business services showed the most job growth in Columbia County, according to Shawna Sykes, a workforce analyst for the Oregon Employment Department.

Examples of manufacturing in the county include primary metal manufacturing through companies like Pacific Stainless Products in St. Helens and Custom Metal Fab in Scappoose, Sykes explained. Examples of business services include businesses that deal with legal services, finances and accounting.

Statewide, the employment market showed expansion in four industry areas: professional and business services, construction, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing.

The unemployment rate, however, doesn’t indicate how many new jobs exist in Columbia County, Sykes explained. Unemployment data shows what percentage of the workforce looking for employment is able to find it. Data is collected based on where people live, but not necessarily where people find work.

While it’s unclear how many people have been hired to work in Columbia County, one business in Scappoose is in the process of hiring 50 employees over the next few weeks. Bi-Mart, an employee-owned retail chain headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, is scheduled to open this spring and anticipates hiring 30 permanent full-time and part-time employees, and 20 temporary employees, over the next few weeks, Skyes said.

County unemployment data for January is expected to be released next week.