2020 Job Vacancies in the East Cascades: Down but Not Out

by Kale Donnelly

March 9, 2021

Results from the Oregon Employment Department’s Job Vacancy Survey for 2020 show that job vacancies in the East Cascades region dropped 22% from their previous levels in 2019 – the same rate at which vacancies dropped statewide. Since 2020 was an atypical year for the labor market, it’s no surprise that hiring activity saw a decline. However, many employers continued to hire throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with roughly 4,400 vacancies reported at any given time during the year.

Job vacancy characteristics in Oregon remained largely unchanged from 2019 to 2020. Nearly eight out of 10 vacancies were full-time; nine out of 10 were permanent positions; one-third required education beyond high school; and just over half required previous experience. However, one notable shift from 2019 was that the share of difficult-to-fill vacancies dropped form 57% to 51%. During challenging economic times, it’s typically easier for employers to find jobseekers to fill their positions. Given the nature of COVID-19 layoffs (the vast majority of them having been temporary), this may explain why there was only a marginal drop in the share of difficult-to-fill vacancies. In other words, most folks on temporary layoff weren’t filling these vacancies like we would have seen in past recessions because they were waiting to be recalled back to their regular position in 2020.

Some notable changes in hiring activity affected the occupations with the highest number of job vacancies. In 2019, some of the top occupations with the greatest number of job vacancies were cashiers, restaurant cooks, and waiters and waitresses. These occupations usually top the list due to their high rates of turnover. Due to COVID-19 restrictions severely impacting the leisure and hospitality sector, those occupations didn’t rank toward the top in 2020. Paired with that occupational shift is the leisure and hospitality sector’s vacancies making up a significantly smaller share of job vacancies in the latest data. In 2019, job vacancies in this industry comprised 20% of total vacancies. Leisure and hospitality’s vacancies comprised only 11% of total vacancies in 2020.
The industries that have the greatest number of job vacancies – health care and social assistance; construction; and management, administrative, and waste services – made up nearly half of all vacancies in the East Cascades.

When it comes to typical entry-level education requirements for the reported vacancies, six out of 10 required a high school diploma or less, with 25% having no educational requirement at all.
Job vacancies that require some degree of higher education or post-secondary training made up roughly one out of every four vacancies, partially explaining the low share of vacancies paying $25 and up, which comprised about 10% of all vacancies. In fact, 83% of vacancies paying $25 and up require education beyond high school. Interestingly enough, even though these vacancies boast a higher rate of pay, this specific set of vacancies also reported the highest share of difficult-to-fill vacancies. High-paying vacancies were also much more likely to require previous experience.
There’s much more to the latest job vacancy results. For more information, check out the original report here. The year 2020, as we all know, was a trying year for all Oregonians. We lost 14.5% of our nonfarm employment in a matter of two months, weathered a shifting set of restrictions in both our professional and personal lives, all while trying to stay afloat as we navigated a global pandemic. This report may offer a silver lining to last year’s situation as it reflects continued hiring activity throughout 2020 – an element of labor market perseverance to help prop up the year of 2021 as our economic recovery continues.

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