The employment situation released yesterday showed that Oregon added 6,900 jobs in May. That's the largest single-month employment gain in Oregon since January 2011. Oregon's monthly employment trends have moved counter to the U.S. in recent months. As national employment numbers showed sharp improvements in the first quarter of 2012, Oregon's numbers sagged. The healthy May report for Oregon comes on the heels of notably slower job growth nationwide.
Several economists in Oregon tell The Oregonian that the state hasn't actually veered onto a separate path than the nation. Rather, changes in the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces job estimates now makes the data more volatile than it has been in the past. For many years, monthly employment estimates for Oregon and its metropolitan areas were developed by Oregon Employment Department economists. In March 2011, responsibility for the monthly employment estimates for all states and metropolitan areas shifted to the BLS. The estimates developed by BLS analysts are more heavily dependent on a survey of businesses and less reliant on knowledge of local economic events. The effect in some states, including Oregon, is that monthly estimates have demonstrated increased month-to-month variability.
Last, but not least, it is important to note that although Oregon added 6,900 jobs in May while the U.S. added 69,000, that does not mean that Oregon accounted for 10 percent of the nation’s job growth. Oregon’s employment estimate isn’t intended to be combined with other states to estimate the national employment figure. The U.S. payroll numbers use the same estimation methods, but have a different sample of businesses.