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CENSUS BOOSTS STATE EMPLOYMENT

SALEM Boosted by the hiring of 4,200 temporary workers to assist with Census 2000, Oregons total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 12,400 in May, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

In April, 700 intermittent census workers were employed by the state. By May, the total had risen to 5,900. May should be the peak month of workers involved in this once-a-decade enumeration, department officials said.

We have five offices throughout the state that have hired more than 1,000 people each to go door-to-door to follow up on the surveys, said Pam Harlan, Oregon area director of the U.S. Census Bureau. We anticipate finishing that huge task in about two weeks. There will be other activities continuing through August, but with a reduced staff.

Total payroll employment in May grew by 3,600 more than would have been expected primarily because of seasonal factors, officials said. Excluding the census workers, total employment would have been more in line with the normal seasonal pattern.

Oregons seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 5.0 percent in May from 4.6 percent in April. At the same time, the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 4.1 percent in May from 3.9 percent in April, officials said.

Although Oregons unemployment jumped up a bit in May, the rate is still below last Mays rate of 5.8 percent, said David Cooke, an economist with the Employment Department. Last year at this time, many sectors of Oregons economy were still recovering from the effects of the Asian financial crisis that started in 1997.

This year, the strong U.S. and California economies have helped lower Oregons unemployment rate to levels seldom seen in the last 30 years.

Outside of the federal government sector, where the census workers are employed, most sectors of Oregons economy were stable in May, officials said.

Of the eight major industry sectors, five showed changes of less than 1,000 jobs compared to their normal trend for the time of year. Services posted no change in overall employment for the month and has seen no employment gains above it normal trend during 2000, officials said.

Similarly, transportation and public utilities showed no net employment change in May and has expanded by 700 jobs above its seasonal trend in the first five months of the year, officials said. Finance, insurance and real estate was essentially flat in May and is 700 jobs below its normal hiring pattern for the year.

A fourth major sector to show a typical hiring pattern for May was construction, which boosted its workforce by 1,300 jobs, officials said.

The two major industries with unusual changes in their May employment levels were manufacturing and retail trade, officials said.

Manufacturing posted a job gain of 300, when a gain of 2,200 would have been a typical May increase for the industry, officials said.

Food and kindred products manufacturers cut back by 300 jobs in May. This came in a month when 800 net new jobs would normally be added in the sector. Fish processing factories have been hit hard by declines in availability of certain species, officials said. Several other canneries and food processing firms are off to a slow start to their upcoming summer season.

Lumber and wood products manufacturing posted a gain of 400 jobs in May, when a gain of 700 would have been the norm for the month, officials said. The weak job gains were because of closures and cutbacks at some mills.

Wood products prices are well below year-ago levels and appear to be putting pressure on mills. Recent employment patterns in lumber and wood products manufacturing have continued the industrys trend of moderate job reductions during the past few years, officials said.

One bright spot in manufacturing was electronic equipment manufacturing, the industry group made up largely of computer chip manufacturers. Several chip manufacturers are hiring in earnest again, officials said. This industry added 200 jobs in May, and has added 1,500 jobs to its payrolls since May 1999.

Retail trade posted its second strong month, after a sharp drop in March, officials said. All published sectors of retail trade added jobs in May.

Furniture and home furnishings stores were noteworthy in that they added 700 jobs. The opening of three new home electronics stores in the Portland area was partially responsible for the strong job gains in this sector, officials said.

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