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Ore. jobless rate hits 12.1 percent

TUALATIN, Ore. (AP) - Oregon's jobless rate has taken a dramatic jump, to 12.1 percent - a rate seen only once before since the years after World War II.

The increase could put Oregon on a pace to have the highest unemployment rate in the nation when those figures are released on Friday, state labor economist Art Ayre said Monday.

Michigan currently has the highest rate, at 12 percent. Oregon's comparable figure from February, 10.7 percent, put it tied for third.

The state Employment Department said the March jobless figure in Oregon matches that of November 1982, which was the high point of the recession of the early 1980s.

The department said Monday the statistics aren't exactly comparable, but it appears that 12.1 percent is the highest unemployment rate the state has recorded since the department first began publishing the statistics in 1947.

The state's jobless rate has risen for 14 months in a row. The increases averaged a percentage point per month over the last five months.

Ayre cited large job losses in three major sectors: construction, manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities.

He said that Oregon's job force has been growing, which tends to increase the jobless rate when the economy goes sour.

Looking forward, Ayre said, forecasts suggest that more job losses are ahead, but the state may have already seen the bulk of the job losses in the current recession.

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