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A Closer Look at the Characteristics of Oregon's Unemployed
by Tracy A Morrissette
Published Apr-23-2013

 
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 2009. Oregon's unemployment rate has since gradually declined to a seasonally adjusted 8.4 percent in February 2013, a number that is significantly lower than the peak of 11.6 percent, but still elevated by historical standards. Oregon's average unemployment rate from 1976 to 2012 is 7.3 percent, and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is generally below that average when the economy is rapidly expanding.

This article examines Oregon's unemployment numbers from 2007 to 2012, and takes a closer look at the detailed characteristics of Oregon's unemployed labor force. More specifically, this article examines unemployment data trends by industry and educational attainment since 2007. 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 2012
 
The recession that began at the end of 2007 increased Oregon's unemployment numbers through the middle of 2009. Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment numbers increased from about 102,000 near the end of 2007 to a peak of nearly 230,000 in May and June 2009. Likewise, Oregon's seasonally adjusted number of continued claims, or "insured unemployment," increased from approximately 38,000 near the end of 2007 to a peak of about 93,000 in May and June 2009 (Graph 1).

Oregon's seasonally adjusted unemployment numbers and insured unemployed have gradually declined from the mid-2009 peaks. In February 2013, seasonally adjusted unemployment was 163,000 and seasonally adjusted insured unemployed was about 40,000. The continued claims discussed here exclude extended benefits and meet specific criteria; these numbers are more indicative of economic trends than actual counts of those receiving UI benefits.

Graph 1
Oregon unemployment seasonally adjusted
Oregon's UI Claimants and Unemployment by Industry
 
The recession's impact varied by industry in Oregon between 2007 and 2012. In December 2007, seasonally adjusted continued claims in construction, manufacturing, and trade were approximately 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 more than 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 2012. 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 accounted for 54.1 percent of continued claims in 2007. In 2009, these same four industries represented 59.9 percent of all continued claims, 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.

By 2012, these four industries were down to 48.7 percent of all continued claims: trade (14.6%), construction (13.1%), manufacturing (10.6%), and administrative and waste services (10.3%). In 2012, health care and social assistance accounted for one out of 10 continued claims. Continued claims in the health care and social assistance industry began to increase in mid-2008 while the economy was in recession (Graph 2), and have stayed somewhat elevated since. The percentage share of continued claimants in health care and social assistance was about 6 to 8 percent between 2007 and 2009. However, this industry's share increased to 8.4 percent in 2010, 10.0 percent in 2011, and 10.6 percent in 2012.

Oregon unemployment rates by industry demonstrated similar patterns from 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. 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 14.2 percent in 2011. The unemployment rate for manufacturing reached 15.8 percent in 2009, and was 10.8 percent in 2011. The unemployment rate for trade reached 10.9 percent in 2009, and was 8.3 percent in 2011.

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 2012.

In 2007, about 70 percent of continued claimants had received up to a high school diploma, about 17 percent had some college or an associate degree, and around 13 percent had earned a four-year college degree or more. The share of UI claimants by education level shifted some by 2009; 68.6 percent had up to a high school diploma, 17.7 percent had some college or an associate degree, and 13.7 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. These percentage shares continued to trend in the same direction in 2012. In that year, 65.6 percent of continued claimants had up to a high school diploma, 19.3 percent had some college or an associate degree, and 15.1 percent had four years of college 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 aged 25 years or older. In 2007, 53.6 percent of Oregon's unemployed people aged 25 years and older had up to a high school diploma; 31.9 percent had some college or 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 2011, the shares remained on trend at 43.0 percent, 35.6 percent, and 21.5 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 2011. During these years, the category high school or less experienced the highest unemployment rates, some college or an associate degree fell in the middle, and the bachelor's degree or higher category had the lowest rates (Graph 3). In 2011, the unemployment rate for high school or less was 10.6 percent; some college or an associate degree had a rate of 8.7 percent; and the rate for bachelor's degree or higher was 4.5 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 labor force 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 continued claimants that meet the criteria of unemployment as defined by CPS. Extended benefits are excluded from these counts. 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