Thursday, September 3, 2020

1.7 Million Oregonians Lived in a Household Where There Was a Loss in Employment Income in July

The U.S. Census Bureau developed the Household Pulse Survey in order to measure the experiences of households during the COVID-19 pandemic. This experimental data series is a valuable tool for us in understanding how the pandemic is impacting Oregonians at the household level. The U.S. Census Bureau began collecting weekly responses on April 23rd, roughly a month after the onset of the direct impacts from the pandemic, and continued the weekly survey through the last week in July.

As of the last week of the survey an estimated 1.7 million Oregonians lived in a house where someone experienced a loss in employment income. In many instances loss of employment income was due to businesses closing or layoff events. However, a large number of workers have seen their pay cut or hours reduced in response to the economic shock. According to the Small Business Pulse Survey, also developed by the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly one out of four businesses reduced the hours worked by paid employees. The loss of employment income is the most direct and important impact measured by the Household Pulse Survey.
Although an estimated 1.7 million Oregonians lived in a house where someone saw their employment income decline during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of workers who have seen a net loss in income is likely much lower. Many workers have received additional unemployment insurance benefits due to federal legislation that added $600 to the weekly unemployment insurance benefit amount and expanded the program to assist self-employed workers and others not typically covered by unemployment insurance. However, as of the end of July the federal boost to unemployment insurance expired, likely resulting in more households feeling the impact of the loss in employment income.

One of the more revealing questions asked of respondents in the weekly pulse survey was, do you expect to lose employment income in the next four weeks? For the last week of the survey (July 16-21st) it was estimated that roughly 37 percent of Oregon adults expected someone in their household to have a loss in employment income in the next four weeks. Responses for this particular question were highest during the first few weeks of the survey then gradually began to decline. However, over the past several weeks workers became more pessimistic, with the share of adults expecting a loss of employment income in the coming weeks up 8 percentage points from the end of June.

Is this pessimism related to businesses using up their Pay Check Protection (PPP) loans? The continued growth in COVID-19 cases? Or, the expiration of expanded UI benefits? It is impossible to know exactly, but it is revealing that Oregonians didn’t feel any more secure as of the end of July compared with the depths of the stay-at-home orders in late April and May.

Read Regional Economist Damon Runberg's full article here.

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