Characteristics of Job Vacancies in 2020

by Anna Johnson

March 1, 2021

Throughout the year, the Oregon Employment Department surveys private employers from all industries and areas of the state to ask about 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.

Employers Continued to Hire During the Pandemic

Employers reported 44,400 job openings at any given time in 2020. This is a decrease of 22% from the 2019 level of vacancies. 2020 was not a typical year for Oregon businesses, yet many of the characteristics Oregon employers were looking for didn’t change much during the pandemic recession. A typical job vacancy tends to be for a full-time, permanent position. About one-third require education beyond high school and half require previous experience.

Starting in spring 2020, employers were asked “Is this location closed or operations curtailed due to COVID-19 restrictions?” Nearly one out of five (18%) responses indicated a closure or curtailment in spring 2020. The share dropped to 7% in summer 2020 and 6% in fall 2020. The leisure and hospitality and other services industries most often responded that operations were affected. Employers in the Portland-Metro and Northwest Oregon areas reported the highest shares of affected businesses.
In 2020, health care and social assistance reported the most vacancies of any industry (9,000), followed by management, administrative, and waste services (5,800), and leisure and hospitality (4,900). Together these three sectors accounted for 44% of all job openings statewide. Hiring demand was spread across the economy. Except for private educational services and information, all industries 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 357 different occupations. Occupations with the highest number of job vacancies in 2020 reflected the necessity of jobs that relate to the pandemic and the changing business practices associated with it. They included heavy truck drivers (1,800); nursing assistants (1,400); personal care aides (1,400); retail salespersons (1,300); stockers and order fillers (1,100); production workers (1,000); and fast food and counter workers (1,000).  

Full-Time and Permanent Help Wanted

Across all industries, most job vacancies (79%) offered full-time employment in 2020. That share rose as high as 97% in construction and 94% in financial activities. Leisure and hospitality had a low share compared with the average, at 49% full-time. Fast food and counter workers, restaurant cooks, maids and housekeeping cleaners, food preparation workers, and waiters and waitresses had the most openings in leisure and hospitality, but many of these positions were not full time. In every other sector, at least seven out of 10 job openings were for full-time work.

A large majority (92%) of job openings were also for permanent positions. Natural resources and mining (62%) 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.

One-third (33%) of job vacancies require education beyond high school. That varied widely among industries. While 62% of both private education services and professional and technical services job openings required higher education, less than 20% of manufacturing (18%), retail trade (12%), and leisure and hospitality (5%) 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 $14.26 per hour in 2020. That rose to $15.59 for job vacancies requiring a high school diploma. Employers offered an average of $24.75 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 even more per hour, averaging $28.24.

Shares of job vacancies requiring previous experience also rose along with education requirements. While 43% of job vacancies with no education requirement reported a need for previous experience, almost two-thirds (61%) with a high school diploma wanted seasoned candidates. That grew to 77% 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.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, employers continued to hire across Oregon’s economy in 2020. 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.

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

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