After posting the lowest unemployment rate in more than a decade, the number of people out of work in Wallowa County ticked up slightly during the month of October, according to the December edition of Eastern Oregon labor Trends, published by the Oregon Employment department.

Wallowa County had an estimated jobless rate of 5.5 percent in October, up moderately from the revised September 2002 figure of 4.2 percent.

October's labor force estimates show 2,984 people employed and 175 unemployed.

The current jobless rate is 1.3 percentage points lower than the previous year, according to regional economist Jason Yohannan, who predicted that Wallowa County will finish the year with an average unemployment rate that is about one percentage point under the 2001 average of 10.8.

The regional economist noted that both farm and non farm jobs had big seasonal declines between September and October. Retail trade and services each dropped 40 positions, the largest losses among those categories included in Yohannan's report.

Wallowa County's October unemployment rate was lower than the statewide rate of 6.4 percent, and slightly higher than the national rate of 5.3 percent.

Yohannan noted that the Oregon rate for October was the highest in the nation.

The unemployment rates in other Eastern Oregon counties during the month of October were as follows: Union County 4.1 percent, Malheur County 5.2 percent, Grant County 5.7 percent, Harney County 6.4 percent, and Baker County 6.8 percent.

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