Characteristics of Job Vacancies in 2019

by Jessica Nelson

February 13, 2020

Throughout the year, the Oregon Employment Department surveys private employers from all industries and areas of the state to ask about the job vacancies they are actively trying to fill. For each vacancy, the employer provides the job title, starting wage, and education and experience requirements for the job. They also specify whether their vacancies are for full- or part-time positions, and permanent or seasonal jobs. If they face challenges with vacancies, employers also write in the primary reason for difficulty filling their job openings.

Widespread Hiring Demand

Employers reported 57,000 job openings at any given time in 2019. Health care and social assistance reported the most vacancies of any industry (11,200), followed by leisure and hospitality (7,700), and retail trade (7,400). Together these three sectors accounted for 46 percent of all job openings statewide. Despite big vacancy totals in a few sectors, hiring demand was widespread across the economy. All sectors, except the relatively small information industry, reported at least 1,000 job vacancies at any given time in the year.
Employers were hiring for a wide variety of jobs; they reported vacancies across 394 different occupations. Occupations with the highest number of job vacancies in 2019 reflected this variety. They included retail salespersons (2,300); personal care aides (2,200 vacancies); laborers and freight, stock, and material movers (1,600); heavy truck drivers (1,600); cashiers (1,400); fast food and counter workers (1,300); and registered nurses (1,200).

Full-Time and Permanent Help Wanted

Across all industries, most job vacancies (77%) offered full-time employment in 2019. That share rose as high as 97 percent in manufacturing and 92 percent in both construction and information. Private education services was an outlier in 2019, with just 29 percent of its vacancies at full-time. Postsecondary career and technical educators, some part-time elementary and secondary positions, and substitute teacher roles all played into that low figure. Leisure and hospitality also had a low share compared with the average, at 51 percent full-time. Fast food and counter workers, waiters and waitresses, food prep workers, and hosts and hostesses all had lots of openings but not many full-time positons. In every other sector at least seven out of 10 job openings were for full-time work.

A large majority (93%) of job openings were also for permanent positions. Natural resources and mining (69%) had the lowest share of permanent positions, influenced by its pattern of large seasonal shifts in employment. Natural resources work generally hits a peak in the summer months.

About one-third (34%) of job vacancies require education beyond high school. That varied widely among industries. While 87 percent of private education services and 73 percent of professional and technical services job openings required higher education, less than 20 percent of retail, leisure and hospitality, and natural resources and mining vacancies did.
More Education, More Experience, and Higher Wages

As education requirements rose, so did the average starting wage for job openings. Job vacancies with no education requirement averaged $14.14 per hour in 2019. That rose by more than $1.50 per hour to $15.78 for job vacancies requiring a high school diploma. Employers offered an average of $25.39 per hour for jobs with either some college, an associate degree, or a special certification beyond high school. Vacancies with bachelor’s or advanced degree requirements paid twice as much per hour ($31.02) as job openings requiring high school completion.
Shares of job vacancies requiring previous experience also rose along with education requirements. While slightly more than one-third (37%) of job vacancies with no education requirements reported a need for previous experience, almost two-thirds (62%) with a high school diploma wanted seasoned candidates. That grew to 82 percent of job vacancies where applicants needed postsecondary or other certifications. Nearly all (93%) job openings at the bachelor’s and advanced degree level required previous work experience.

Difficulty Filling Job Vacancies

Oregon’s unemployment rate has been at or near a record low for more than three years. This has contributed to employers’ difficulty filling the majority (32,500 or 57%) of job vacancies in 2019. With low unemployment rates, it also makes sense that employers most commonly cited a lack of applicants as the primary reason for difficulty filling vacancies. At any given time in 2019, Oregon’s private employers had 6,600 job openings with too few applicants, or none at all. Two additional reasons each represented an outsized share of the responses: a lack of qualified candidates for positions, also indicative of a tight labor market; and unfavorable working conditions, like shift work or hard physical labor, which have increased as a share of the responses in the past two years.

Difficult-to-fill job vacancies paid roughly $3 per hour more than job openings filled without difficulty. They were also far more likely to require previous experience than vacancies filled without difficulty. Many employers noted the challenge of finding experienced workers looking for a job in a labor market with low unemployment. Some emphasized the tight labor market by describing a “good economy, small available workforce” and competition among businesses because “everyone is looking for employees.” Others looking for experienced workers expressed that they were in “high demand” or “already working.
Summary

Hiring demand remained strong and broad-based across Oregon’s economy in 2019. Most job vacancies offered full-time work schedules, and employers were mostly looking to fill permanent positions. Vacancies with higher education requirements also came along with a greater likelihood for prior experience requirements, and higher average wages. Employers faced challenges filling nearly six out of 10 job vacancies, most commonly due to a lack of applicants in a tight labor market with low unemployment.

More information about regional and statewide job vacancies can be found in the Job Vacancy box on the publications page of QualityInfo.org.


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