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Behind the Aggregate Unemployment Statistics: A Closer Look at the Characteristics of Oregon's Unemployed
by Tracy A Morrissette
Published Jul-21-2014

 
Oregon's unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in 2007. However, a major recession began in December 2007 that eventually sent Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate up to 11.6 percent by May and June of 2009. Oregon's unemployment rate has since gradually declined to a seasonally adjusted 6.9 percent in February 2014; a number significantly lower than the peak of 11.6 percent but still above the 5.2 percent level in 2007.

Along with the changes in the level of unemployment that occurred between 2007 and 2013, there were changes in the distribution of Oregon's unemployed during that time period as well. This article examines these changes in the characteristics and distribution of Oregon's unemployed between the years of 2007 and 2013. Unemployment data analyzed in this article are from two separate sources; Oregon's total unemployment statistics and Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits data.

UI Claimants and Unemployment in Oregon From 2007 to 2013
 
The recession that began at the end of 2007 increased Oregon's unemployment numbers though the middle of 2009. Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment numbers increased from around 102,000 near the end of 2007 to a peak of around 230,000 in May 2009. Oregon's seasonally adjusted number of continued claims, or "insured unemployment," increased from around 38,000 near the end of 2007 to a peak of around 93,000 in June 2009. Likewise, the number unemployed for 26 weeks or less followed a similar pattern, going from around 86,000 in late 2007 to a peak of around 176,000 in April 2009 (Graph 1).

Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment numbers and insured unemployed have gradually declined from the mid-2009 peaks. Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment was 133,000 in February 2014 and seasonally adjusted insured unemployed was around 34,000 in February 2014. Likewise, the number unemployed for 26 weeks or less has gradually declined since 2009 to 86,000 in February 2014. Both the insured unemployed (extended benefit claimants are excluded from these counts) and those unemployed for 26 weeks or less have returned to pre-recession levels, whereas total unemployment is still above the level before the recession. Total unemployment is still higher than pre-recession levels because the number of long-term unemployed (those unemployed 27 weeks or more) remains elevated above 2007 levels.

Graph 1
Oregon unemployment seasonally adjusted
Oregon's UI Claimants and Unemployment by Industry
 
In 2013, the majority of continued claimants were in the following industries: trade (13.8%), construction (11.9%), manufacturing (11.0%), health care and social assistance (10.8%), and administrative and waste services (10.2%).

Some industries were severely affected by the recent recession. In December 2007, seasonally adjusted continued claims in construction, manufacturing, and trade were around 5,500 to 6,000 for each industry. The seasonally adjusted levels in each industry rapidly increased before peaking in 2009 (Graph 2); construction increased to more than 15,000, manufacturing increased to over 19,000, and trade increased to nearly 14,000.

Likewise, the business cycle impacted the percentage distribution of continued claims by industry between 2007 and 2013. In 2007, the majority of continued claimants were in the following industries: manufacturing (15.7%), trade (14.7%), construction (14.1%), and administrative and waste services (9.7%). These four industries comprised 54.1 percent of continued claimants in 2007. In 2009, these same four industries comprised 59.9 percent of all continued claimants, with manufacturing at 19.3 percent, construction at 16.5 percent, trade at 15.1 percent, and administrative and waste services at 9.0 percent. In 2013, the share of these four industries declined to 47 percent of all continued claimants.

Continued claimants in the health care and social assistance industry began to increase in mid-2008, while the economy was in recession, and has stayed somewhat elevated since. The percentage of continued claimants in health care and social assistance was around 6 to 8 percent between 2007 and 2009. However, the percentage share in this industry increased to 8.4 percent in 2010, and has remained above 10.0 percent of claims from 2011 to 2013.

Oregon unemployment rates by industry demonstrated similar patterns from 2007 to 2012, which are the most recent data for this set. Unemployment rates by industry are based on the "experienced labor force," which excludes persons without previous work experience. In 2007, unemployment rates were 6.2 percent for construction, 4.7 percent for manufacturing, and 4.4 percent for trade. The unemployment rate for construction increased substantially to 22.4 percent in 2009, and reached 26.0 percent in 2010, before declining to 14.1 percent by 2012. The unemployment rate for manufacturing reached 15.8 percent in 2009, and was 9.3 percent in 2012. The unemployment rate for trade reached 10.9 percent in 2009, and was 9.7 percent in 2012.

Graph 2
Oregon continued claims by selected industries seasonally adjusted
UI Claimants and Unemployment by Educational Attainment
 
The recession that began near the end of 2007 impacted both the level and percent distribution of continued claimants by educational attainment. Like the overall level of unemployment for Oregon, these numbers increased across all groups from 2007 to 2009, before declining through 2013.

In 2007, about 70 percent of continued claimants received up to a high school diploma, about 17 percent had some college or associate degree, and around 13 percent earned either a four-year college degree or more. The share of UI claimants by education level shifted slightly by 2009; 68.6 percent had up to a high school diploma, 17.7 percent had some college or associate degree, and 13.7 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. These percentage shares continued to trend in the same directions in 2013. In 2013, 63.1 percent had up to a high school diploma, 20.4 percent had some college or associate degree, and 16.5 percent had a four-year degree or more.

A similar shift in the share of total unemployment by educational attainment occurred in the Current Population Survey data for Oregon. The educational attainment data from the CPS are for the labor force ages 25 years or older. In 2007, 53.6 percent of Oregon's unemployed aged 25 years and older had up to a high school diploma, 31.9 percent had some college or an associate degree, and 14.5 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. In 2009, 47.7 percent had up to a high school diploma, 32.6 percent had some college or associate degree, and 19.8 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. By 2013, the shares continued to trend in the same general direction to 42.2 percent, 37.8 percent, and 20.0 percent, respectively.

Despite the shift in percentage shares of unemployment levels by educational attainment, unemployment rates by educational attainment were consistently ranked from 2007 to 2013, with high school or less experiencing the highest unemployment rates, some college or associate degree in the middle, and bachelor's degree or higher coming in the lowest (Graph 3). In 2013, the unemployment rate for high school or less was 8.8 percent, some college or associate degree was 7.7 percent, and bachelor's degree or higher was 3.6 percent.

Graph 3
Oregon unemployment rates by educational attainment
Two Different Sources of Unemployment Information
 
There are two primary sources of information about the unemployed in Oregon. One source is based on information collected from the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a survey sample of households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. These data are used in the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program to estimate Oregon's unemployment rate. The unemployment numbers from the LAUS program are based on the labor force and unemployment definitions used in CPS. In CPS, unemployment is defined as "all persons not employed during the CPS reference week but were available for work and had made specific efforts to find employment during the last four weeks."

Another source of unemployment statistics is Oregon's UI system. These data are based on the number of people who are filing for and receiving UI benefit payments under the laws and administration of Oregon's UI program. People who first file for UI benefit payments are "Initial Claimants" and people who qualify for and receive UI benefit payments each week are "Continued Claimants."

Although data from LAUS/CPS and the UI system are from separate and independent sources, they complement each other in many ways and examining both data sets provides a more detailed picture of unemployment. However, since they are from different sources, there are some important differences between them. One source measures the level of unemployed in Oregon based on responses to a survey questionnaire conducted by an interviewer. The other source measures the number of Oregonians filing for and receiving insurance benefits covering cases of involuntary unemployment. The CPS interview does not consider eligibility for UI claims in determining who is unemployed. Likewise, Oregon's UI laws do not consider whether a person is unemployed according to the CPS definition in the determination of eligibility for UI benefit payments. For these reasons, although similar in some respects, LAUS/CPS and UI benefits are different measures of unemployment.

The UI claims data discussed in this article are from a special tabulation produced as part of the LAUS program. The UI claimants associated with the LAUS program are regular program (extended benefits are excluded from these counts) continued claimants that meet the criteria of unemployment as defined by CPS. These claimant data are intended to be used only for Labor Market Information (LMI) purposes, as they meet specific criteria and in some cases have been seasonally adjusted. UI statistics that can be used as performance measures for Oregon's UI system can be found at  www.oregon.gov/EMPLOY/BUDGET/UI/Pages/index.aspx.