Tuesday, July 20, 2021

June 2021 Employment and Unemployment in Oregon’s Counties

In June 2021, all but two of Oregon’s counties experienced over-the-month decreases in their unemployment rates. The unemployment rate in Sherman County did not change, and in Lake County it increased by 0.1 percentage point. Clatsop, Multnomah, and Wheeler counties saw the largest decrease over the month with a change of -0.4 percentage points.

Lincoln County had Oregon’s highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June at 7.7%. Other counties with some of the highest unemployment rates included Crook (7.4%), Curry (7.3%), Klamath (7.2%), and Grant (7.2%) counties. 

Wheeler County registered the lowest unemployment rate for the month at 3.5%. Other counties with some of the lowest unemployment rates in June were Benton (4.4%), Sherman (4.6%), and Malheur (4.6%) counties. Nineteen counties had unemployment rates at or below the nationwide rate of 5.9%, and 14 counties had unemployment rates below the statewide rate of 5.6%.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased in all six of Oregon’s broad regions between June 2020 and June 2021. Most areas still have room to recover from pandemic job losses; the state has now recovered 64% of jobs lost in March and April 2020. The largest job increases since June 2020 occurred on the Coast (7.1%). Central Oregon (6.5%), the Willamette Valley (5.2%), and Eastern Oregon (4.4%) also experienced large over-the-year employment increases. Southern Oregon and the Portland-5 regions added 3.8% and 3.5%, respectively.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Oregon's Beveridge Curve Shows Unusually High Job Vacancy Rate

This week we've shared the latest unemployment and labor force numbers from June, and job vacancy totals during spring 2021 in Oregon. Oregon's unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% in June. At any given time during spring 2021, Oregon's private employers had 98,000 job openings. This makes for a good opportunity to check in on the Beveridge Curve.

The Beveridge Curve shows the relationship between the job openings rate (vacancies/labor force) and the unemployment rate. Note the labor force includes all those ages 16+ who are either employed, or out of work but are available and able to take a job if offered to them, and have actively sought work in the past four weeks.

At first glance the Beveridge Curve is just a messy squiggle. That squiggly line does generally tend to move in predictable ways though. If it moves out to the right, but stays high, this could mean those who are unemployed are not finding jobs as well, when there seem to be plenty of vacancies. This is where we were in spring 2020.

When the curve moves up and to the left over time, that means the unemployment rate is low, and there's strong hiring demand relative to the size of the labor force. This appears to be the situation we're in now. Hiring demand is strong, like it was at its last peak in summer 2017. Now, both Oregon and the nation have recently hit the highest level of job openings on record, while the unemployment rate is relatively low. The U.S. Beveridge Curve looks much like Oregon's.

What does that mean?
In spring 2020, about 9 out of 10 layoffs at the beginning of the pandemic recession were temporary. Those workers probably expected to get called back to work by their employer once businesses could resume operations, and weren't likely seeking another job.

At the same time, higher-wage earners were more likely to keep their jobs in the downturn, and most households received direct federal fiscal stimulus. That translated to people continuing to buy stuff, and a different mix of stuff (e.g., home goods rather than vacations). That helped keep up the hiring demand to make and/or deliver that stuff, even with higher unemployment.

Now, the Beveridge Curve and the economic picture look quite different. Oregon's unemployment rate has recovered about five times faster during this recovery than it did following the onset of the Great Recession. We closed many otherwise thriving businesses for public health and safety, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The first wave of re-opening shows in the dramatic shift of the Beveridge Curve to the left, during what was likely a surge of recalls during the summer and fall of 2020. Unemployment declined significantly, while job vacancies didn't surge relative to the labor force. 

After a pause in both aspects of the Beveridge Curve over the winter -- and an economic "freeze" period -- unemployment has continued to decline in 2021. Meanwhile, the number of job vacancies skyrocketed.

What is driving our current, really high point on the curve?
As with everything else this year, there are likely many factors at play -- at the same time -- and it's hard to tell just how much to attribute to each one. Here's a (not necessarily exhaustive) list of possibilities:

  • There are still some people sitting out the labor force due to COVID-19 concerns. While this has eased from 45,000 in the winter of 2021 down to 32,500 in the spring, that's still a sizeable number of people not included in the labor force. This could include parents in a bind until in-person school starts up this fall, the immunocompromised, among others. It also shifts the Beveridge Curve a little further to the left than it would otherwise be.
  • There's a lot of pent-up demand to get out, and a lot of pent up savings and/or federal stimulus that went to households throughout 2020 and in spring 2021. More demand for goods, services, and travel means employers need to hire more, pushing up job openings.
  • Nationally, we know that the quits rate has recently been at the highest point we've ever seen. If someone quits their job, it creates a job opening to replace them.
  • Retirements are likely on the upswing again. As with a quit, when someone retires, it creates a replacement opening...and also means one less person in the labor force looking for work.
  • Are employers also doing some "preemptive posting?" If you already know it's going to be hard to hire in the coming months, do you get those upcoming job openings out there now to try to build a candidate pool?
  • What about enhanced unemployment benefits? We know that in winter 2021, on average, regular unemployment benefits were full wage replacement (about 103%) relative to the earnings of what those receiving benefits were earning at their pre-pandemic jobs. From January to June, the number of Oregonians receiving any kind of ongoing unemployment benefits fell by 30%. The resumption of job search registration and upcoming re-implementation of active work search requirements in July should diminish any remaining labor force disincentives related to benefits.

The Beveridge Curve shows a current labor market dynamic in Oregon that continues to be incredibly competitive for hiring. Employers have already added 57,800 jobs in the first half of this year. Leading up to the pandemic, it took Oregon 22 months to add about that many jobs. Rapid hiring and barriers holding some out of the labor force are contributing to ongoing labor shortages.

More information about Oregon's job vacancy survey is available at Questions about Oregon's Beveridge Curve can be sent to

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Spring 2021 Hiring Among Oregon Private Employers

Oregon businesses reported 97,800 vacancies in spring 2021. Total job openings increased 77% from the winter and 130% from spring 2020. This is the highest number of job vacancies seen in Oregon since the beginning of this survey in 2013. The previous high was 66,600 vacancies in summer 2017. The record high level of job vacancies is not unique to Oregon right now. The number of private-sector job openings in the U.S. totaled 8,995,000 in April 2021, beating the previous high seen in October 2018 (7,055,000) significantly.

Most openings in the spring were for full-time, permanent positions. Health care and social assistance topped the industry list in spring, with 22,200 vacancies. This has been the sector with the most vacancies 20 of the past 22 quarters. The leisure and hospitality industry had 19,900 vacancies, with 55% full-time positions and 7% requiring education beyond high school.

Hiring demand was widespread throughout industries and occupations. Four industries experienced record high vacancies: health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, retail trade (10,500 vacancies), and other services (7,000 vacancies). A majority of employers in every industry reported their vacancies as difficult to fill. Overall, 71% of vacancies were considered difficult to fill, another record high for this series.

Employers reported vacancies in more than 240 different occupations. The occupations with the most vacancies in spring 2021 were: retail salespersons (5,500 vacancies), maids and housekeeping cleaners (4,800 vacancies), personal care aides (3,700 vacancies), and waiters and waitresses (3,300 vacancies).

The average starting wage reported in spring was $18.44, a 3% inflation-adjusted increase from spring 2020. Total vacancies were up 130% from the level last spring at the height of pandemic restrictions. The number of vacancies offering a starting wage below $15 per hour increased the slowest, at 64%. The number of vacancies offering between $15 and $25 per hour more than doubled (+187%), as did vacancies paying above $25 per hour (+174%).

Learn more about job vacancies here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Oregon Adds 7,500 Jobs, Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.6% in June

Oregon's unemployment rate continued its gradual improvement in 2021, dropping to 5.6% in June. This reflects more Oregonians getting back on the job. Nonfarm payrolls added 7,500 jobs in June.

Oregon has regained 64% of the jobs lost in spring 2020, compared with 70% for the U.S. While that still leaves quite a gap to return to pre-pandemic employment levels, the pace of hiring has been relatively fast in 2021. Oregon added 57,800 jobs in the first half of the year. Leading up to the pandemic, it took 22 months for Oregon to add about that many jobs.

In June, private health care and social assistance added the most jobs (+2,400). Other services -- which includes barber shops, hair salons, repair services, and others -- added 1,700 jobs over the month. Leisure and hospitality resumed hiring, adding 1,000 jobs.

While most sectors still have fewer jobs than before the pandemic, two private industries have more jobs now than they did in February 2020. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities is 4,400 jobs (or 6%) above its pre-pandemic employment level. Professional and technical services employs 3,100 (or 3%) more than before the pandemic recession.

More information about Oregon's employment situation is available in the video recap and the full news release.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Disparate Impacts of the Pandemic Recession in Oregon

The pandemic recession came upon a healthy economy with record high total employment and a record-low unemployment rate in spring 2020. Within two months’ time, Oregon lost 286,000 jobs and unemployment spiked to an all-time high of 13.2%. Job losses were not distributed evenly, affecting some industries and workers to a greater degree. These disparate employment impacts are detailed in a new report released by the Employment Department today. (Check out the podcast version too!)

By industry, three service-related sectors bore the brunt of the pandemic. Leisure and hospitality was impacted the most by far – losing half of its employment, or about 110,000 jobs between February and April 2020. The other hardest-hit sectors initially were other services – things like barber shops and hair salons, tattoo parlors – and also the education sector.

Leisure and hospitality in particular employed more women, more of Oregon’s young workers, and more Black, Indigenous, and workers from communities of color than Oregon’s economy overall. Other hard-hit sectors also tended to have more women and more low-wage workers. These are the Oregonians who experienced disparate job impacts of the pandemic recession in 2020.

These impacts are reflected in changes in unemployment claims activity during the pandemic. Regular unemployment (UI) claims activity rose dramatically across all demographics in Oregon. That said, the volume increased to an even greater degree for women and for younger workers.

Although workers of Hispanic or Latino origin were more likely to be working in leisure and hospitality than other sectors, their claims volume did not increase to a greater degree than for non-Hispanic workers. There's a combination of possible reasons: it could be Hispanic or Latino workers were less likely to be laid off, or that they were laid off but less likely to seek unemployment benefits, or possibly did seek benefits but had some difficulty accessing them. It's also noteworthy that their over-representation in leisure and hospitality was not as pronounced as for all young workers (who made up 27% of sector employment), or women's in education (where they held two out of three jobs).

The focus of any economic downturn often falls first on those who lost their livelihoods. The pandemic recession also created disease exposure risks to those who remained working at in-person or high-contact jobs. Much like those who were more likely to suffer pandemic-related job losses, data suggest that lower-wage earners, younger workers, and workers from communities of color who remained employed appear to have had relatively less opportunity to telecommute. This creates another disparate impact of the pandemic on the workforce.

More information about the disparate job impacts of the pandemic recession can be found in the full report.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

May 2021 Employment and Unemployment in Oregon’s Counties

In May 2021, 19 out of 36 of Oregon’s counties experienced over-the-month decreases in their unemployment rates. Nine counties experienced increases in their unemployment rates over the month, and eight counties experienced no change in their unemployment rates. Lake and Wallowa counties saw the largest over-the-month increase at 0.6 percentage points each in May. 

Lincoln County had Oregon’s highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May at 7.7%. Other counties with some of the highest unemployment rates included Curry (7.6%), Crook (7.5%), Klamath (7.4%), and Grant (7.3%) counties. 

Wheeler County registered the lowest unemployment rate for the month at 3.5%. Other counties with some of the lowest unemployment rates in May were Benton (4.6%) and Malheur (5.6%) counties. Fifteen counties had unemployment rates at or below the nationwide rate of 5.8%, as well as the statewide rate of 5.9%. 

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased in all six of Oregon’s broad regions between May 2020 and May 2021. Most areas still have room to recover from pandemic job losses; the state has now recovered 62% of jobs lost in March and April 2020. The largest job increases since May 2020 occurred on the Coast (14.8%). Central Oregon (11.0%), the Willamette Valley (7.7%), and Southern Oregon (7.4%) also experienced large over-the-year employment increases. Eastern Oregon and the Portland-5 regions added 6.7% and 6.2%, respectively.

Read the original release at

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Oregon Adds 6,900 Jobs in May

In Oregon, nonfarm payroll employment grew by 6,900 in May, following monthly gains averaging 11,400 in the prior four months. Monthly gains in May were largest in private education (+3,400 jobs); professional and business services (+2,900); construction (+900); and financial activities (+900). Only one major industry shed more than 500 jobs in May: transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-800 jobs).

In May, Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment totaled 1,864,000, a drop of 109,000 jobs, or 5.5% from the prerecession peak in February 2020. Oregon’s employment dropped to a low of 1,687,500 by April 2020. Since then, Oregon has recovered 176,500 jobs, or 62% of the jobs lost between February and April 2020. 

Leisure and hospitality accounts for the bulk of Oregon’s jobs not recovered since early 2020. It employed 169,600 in May, and added only 1,600 jobs in the most recent two months. The industry is still 46,700 jobs below its peak month of February 2020, so it accounts for 43% of overall nonfarm payroll jobs lost since Oregon’s prerecession peak. The restaurants, bars, and hotels that make up accommodation and food services have shown flat hiring trends over the most recent three months; the employment level in this component industry has been close to 150,000 in March, April, and May.

Read the full press release on

Monday, June 7, 2021

Oregon Construction Employment Near Record Highs

Oregon’s construction industry reached near a record high number of jobs in recent months, employing approximately 110,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The industry bounced back quickly from the COVID recession in which it spiked down to about 100,000 jobs in April 2020. Prior to that, the industry added jobs steadily and rapidly during 2013 through 2019, following a prolonged slump in 2009 through 2012, when employment remained near 70,000 for several years after the 2008-09 recession.

Looking back more than 30 years, clearly the industry has been highly cyclical – experiencing booms and busts over the course of multi-year expansions that were followed by briefer, but potentially precipitous contractions.

In the late 1990s the industry hovered close to 80,000 jobs for several years, dropped some jobs in a mild recession and then resumed its climb. Just before the 2008 recession, Oregon’s construction industry was slightly below today’s employment total, at about 104,000 jobs.

Housing Starts Increasing But Still  Well Below Historical Highs

One of the reasons that the economic expansion between 2013 and 2019 – both in Oregon and at the national level – was so long and persistent was due to the pattern of housing starts. In the several years immediately following the 2008-09 recession, building permits and housing starts were very low by historic standards. The low level of residential construction activity and spending was a limiting factor for economic growth, given that new-home building is a major component of change in the overall dollar value of economic activity for a region. In Oregon, residential building permits (single-family and multi-family combined) stagnated near an average monthly rate of 600 during 2009 through 2011, but have since climbed to the current rate averaging close to 1,600 per month over the past five plus years. Despite the near-tripling of monthly housing permits in the timespan, we’re still well below peak levels seen during several periods during the 1990s and mid-2000s, not to mention the house-building boom in the late 1970s, when building permit activity was double the current level.

To learn more, read Current Employment Statistics Coordinator David Cooke's full article.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Diversity Among Asian and Pacific Islanders in Oregon

May is national Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Here are some facts about the diverse Asian, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander communities in Oregon.

Oregon's Asian, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander populations are diverse, young, and growing. In 2019, there were an estimated 246,789 Oregon residents who identified as Asian and 34,407 who identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander alone or in combination with one or more other races. 66,200 people in Oregon identified as Asian in combination with one or more other races on average from 2015 to 2019 or 27% of all people of Asian heritage in the state. 

Taking a closer look at the Asian alone population, nearly one out of four people were of Chinese ancestry (24%), followed by those of Vietnamese (17%), Indian (14%), and Filipino (11%) ancestry. More than half (52%) of Oregon’s Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander population also identified as being one or more other races. Looking at more detailed breakouts for the 16,625 who identified as Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander alone, roughly one out of four (24%) are Native Hawaiian, 11% are of Guamanian or Chamorro ancestry, and another 10% are Samoan. More than half (55%) are of some other Pacific Islander ancestry.
Two out of three of Oregon’s Asian alone residents (65%) and one out of three Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders (33%) were foreign born on average from 2015 to 2019. This compares with 10% of all Oregonians. Those born outside of the United States who move here come for a variety of reasons including higher education, work, marriage, and safety reasons. Seven out of ten (69%) of the state’s Asian, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander alone population speak a language other than English, most often in addition to English, and roughly 28% have limited English speaking proficiency.

Asian and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander populations have grown much faster in Oregon than the state’s overall population (9.8%) from 2010 to 2019, growing by 33.3% and 37.4% respectively. From 2015 to 2019, the median age for all who identified as Asian alone in Oregon was 36.6 years compared with to 39.3 years for all Oregonians. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders had a median age of 30.2 years during this same period.

There is much diversity among the growing Asian and Pacific Islander populations in Oregon, and specific groups may have their own socioeconomic needs. More detailed research about these communities will be published on in the coming days.