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More Oregonians Working Fewer Hours

August 10, 2010

SALEM, Ore. - This year, Oregon's unemployment rate has hovered around 10.5 percent. But when other groups affected by joblessness are added in - like those who have quit looking altogether and those who have accepted part-time work - the total is just over 20 percent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calls it "labor underutilization," and it is not good news. According to Nick Beleiciks, an economist with the state Employment Department, one reason Oregon's labor underutilization rate is high is the number of people who still have jobs, but are working fewer hours.

"These are folks who are employed but they're not able to work full-time, because of economic conditions. This has been a common occurrence with the latest recession as opposed to old recessions, with employers cutting back the number of hours that their workers are working instead of just laying them off."

One type of worker being tracked in the statistics is known as "marginally attached." Beleiciks says these are people who have recently given up their job searches, although they say they want to work.

"One thing we don't know about marginally-attached workers is why they have stopped looking for work. It could be for family reasons or child care reasons, as well as they don't think they'd be able to find something. So, there could be non-economic reasons not to look for a job right now."

Compared to other states, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says, Oregon has the second-highest gap between the percentage of people out of work more than 15 weeks and the total percentage of unemployed and partially-employed workers. It is 14 percent, and only California's gap is higher, at 14.6 percent. Oregon's new statewide unemployment figures for July come out next week.

The BLS statistics are online at www.bls.gov

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR