Fall 2020 Hiring Among Oregon Private Employers

by Anna Johnson

January 13, 2021

Each quarter, 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. Oregon businesses reported 54,700 vacancies in fall 2020. Total job openings increased from the level last fall (+7%). The level of job vacancies in the fall was back to the levels seen before major disruption due to COVID-19 in the spring.

The number of unemployed surged in the spring with layoffs related to the pandemic, both in Oregon and across the United States. Nationally, unemployment increased by 16 million between January 2020 and April 2020, when the number of unemployed in the U.S. reached 22.5 million. The number of private-sector job openings in the U.S., as measured by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, didn’t change as drastically. The number of openings fell in the first part of the year, moving from 6.2 million in January to 4.7 million in April. By April there were 4.8 unemployed people for every job opening, a spike from the ratio of 1-to-1 seen throughout the prior three years. In October 2020, job openings in the U.S. rose above 6.3 million and the number of unemployed dropped to 10.6 million, resulting in a ratio of 1.7 unemployed people per job opening.

In Oregon, the ratio shot even higher in the spring as the number of unemployed surged. In spring 2020, there were 7.1 unemployed people for every job vacancy, similar to the ratio measured in early 2013 as the state was recovering from the Great Recession. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was very swift, rapidly spreading across the labor market and taking the economy essentially from full employment to deep recession in just a couple of months. By July, the number of unemployed in Oregon had dropped by more than 70,000, leaving 4.8 unemployed Oregonians for every job vacancy in summer 2020. By October 2020, the number of unemployed Oregonians dropped again and the number of job vacancies rose, leaving 2.5 unemployed persons per job opening.
In spring 2020, the Oregon Job Vacancy Survey included a new question: “Is this location closed or operations curtailed due to COVID-19 restrictions?” About 18% of responding businesses in spring 2020 reported being curtailed or closed due to COVID-19. In summer 2020, the share of responding businesses reporting curtailments or closures due to COVID-19 restrictions dropped to 7% and in the fall 2020 survey 6% of respondents reported a closure or curtailment due to COVID-19.

Leisure and hospitality businesses reported the most closures and curtailed operations due to COVID-19 in the spring, affecting 39% of businesses in the industry compared with 18% overall; by summer the share dropped to 14% and rebounded to 17% in fall of leisure and hospitality businesses reporting curtailments or closures related to COVID-19. The Portland Metro area and Northwest Oregon reported the most COVID-19 effects on business operations over the past three quarters.

Most openings in the fall were for full-time, permanent positions. Health care and social assistance topped the industry list in fall, with 10,600 vacancies. This has been the sector with the most vacancies 18 of the past 20 quarters. Retail trade had 8,600 vacancies and construction had 6,000 in fall.
The average starting wage reported in fall was $17.47, a decrease of 9% from the average in fall 2019. Total vacancies were up 7% from the level last fall, and the number of vacancies offering a starting wage below $15 per hour increased 5%. The number of vacancies offering $15 per hour to $24.99 per hour increased 1%, and most significantly vacancies paying above $25 per hour dropped by 35%. Together, the increase in the total number of vacancies and the decrease in the average wage over the last year indicates that, as of fall, we were seeing some low-wage job recovery. This is likely because the majority of jobs lost in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions, had more impact on low-wage jobs. As restrictions around the pandemic change, hiring demand still exists for these jobs.

Fall vacancies were distributed across the state, with the Portland tri-county area accounting for about 43%. Vacancies dropped the most over the year in Clackamas County and Northwest Oregon.
More details about Oregon Job Vacancies are available on QualityInfo.org, on the publications page under Job Vacancy Survey.

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