A Closer Look at the Pandemic Recovery – Second Quarter 2021

by Erik Knoder

January 18, 2022

Oregon’s employers reported a total of 2,107,292 jobs during the second quarter of 2021 (April, May, and June). This was an increase of about 112,000 from the previous year and it shows the rapid partial recovery in the number of jobs that occurred after the pandemic recession hit Oregon from February to April 2020. Oregon still had about 61,000 fewer jobs as of November 2021 than it did before the pandemic, but the recession was unprecedented in both jobs lost and jobs regained. As a corollary to the gain in jobs, the median (middle) wage of all non-federal jobs rose to $22.67 per hour during the second quarter 2021. This was $0.20 per hour higher than the previous year. Wage growth has continued to accelerate since this second quarter data was collected so it will be interesting to see what future wage reports show.

The rise in median wage during the recovery was notable because it happened despite the large increase in leisure and hospitality jobs. Median wages also rose during the recession because the low-wage leisure and hospitality industry accounted for a disproportionate share of jobs lost, and within essentially every industry lower-wage jobs were more likely to be cut. A person might reasonably think that median wages would drop as those jobs were recovered. That doesn’t seem to have happened. Instead, the tight labor market has led to large increases in wages in lower-wage jobs. Many of these workers moved up to the next higher wage category. As a result the number of jobs paying less than $15 per hour dropped by nearly 50,000 over the year to the second quarter of 2021. The number of workers making from $15 per hour to $20 per hour increased by 76,000.

The largest gains in jobs over the year came in leisure and hospitality (+36,497 jobs) followed by professional and business services (+24,823 jobs), retail trade (+15,403), and local government, which includes public schools, (+7,056 jobs). The transportation, warehousing, and utilities industry, which includes delivery services, shed 2,235 jobs. The only other sector to lose jobs was natural resources and mining (-451 jobs).

The largest gain (+$2.79 per hour) in median wage over the year of any major sector was in the information industry. The only other industry with a gain larger than $1 per hour was state government, where the median wage was up $1.64 per hour. The smallest gain in median wage was in the financial activities industry which recorded only a $0.12 per hour increase. Although the industry added jobs, the majority of them were in the less than $15 per hour range. The median wage for private education jobs declined by $0.22 per hour.

Multiple Job Holding, or Job Switching?

One of the more surprising pieces of information in the second quarter wage report was the increase in the number of people who held more than one job during the quarter. In fact, the increase in the number of people employed over the year was due entirely to the increase in people who held more than one job during the second quarter. The number of people who held only one job actually declined by 6,000 over the year; the number who held more than one job increased by 45,279. The big question is, was the increase due to people who worked two or more jobs at the same time or due to people who switched between jobs during the quarter? Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure because the wage data are not available week by week. We know only that multiple employers were reported during the quarter. The overwhelming majority of these workers reported two employers during the second quarter, and we know nationally that job switching has increased considerably during the recovery. Oregon second quarter 2021 wage records are consistent with an increase in job switching, but can’t definitively confirm it.

To provide better data, this analysis also filters out job records that probably contain errors. Jobs that report zero hours or more than 999 hours (about 77 hours per week) worked in a quarter and jobs that paid less than the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) are excluded. Jobs that paid more than $500 per hour and reported less than 10 hours work during the quarter are also excluded. Jobs are not excluded simply because they pay less than Oregon’s minimum wage. Although some jobs might be put in this category due to errors in reporting, there are also many jobs that are legitimately exempt from Oregon’s minimum wage.


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