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Benton County Unemployment Rises

ALBANY, Ore. — Benton County’s unemployment rate is traditionally the lowest among Oregon’s 36 counties. But new numbers showed an increase this year. According to the Oregon Employment Department, 6.2 percent of Benton County’s population was unemployed in February–that’s up from 6 percent last February.

Amy McClaws is a single mother with two kids to support. Being out of work for nearly a month has been difficult.

“I’ve been out of work for a couple of weeks now after a layoff, so I’m just trying to get back out there again,” said McClaws.

Despite the new report, employment analysts say the slight increase is no cause for alarm.

“You could get that in a rounding error. There’s nothing in these numbers to suggest that there is any issue,” said Will Summers of the Oregon Employment Department.

In fact, Benton County has passed its pre-recession levels. In the last year, the county added 310 jobs. Employment analysts attribute that gain to record enrollment at Oregon State University.

Tom Erhardt with the Oregon Employment Department in Albany said, “It has mostly to do with the university in Corvallis. There’s a whole industry or cluster of industries around that, and it adds to the overall robust economy.”

As for those still looking for work like Guy Baron, who has applied to at least 60 jobs in the past two months, he’s staying optimistic.

“Things will get better. There’s something out there. If you stay steady, looking for something you’ll find something,” said Baron.

Despite the increase, Benton County’s unemployment rate is still the lowest in Oregon.

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