Health Care Job Vacancies in Spring 2021

by Anna Johnson

September 30, 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 97,800 vacancies in spring 2021, a record high.

For this analysis, health care vacancies are narrowed from the broad “health care and social assistance” industry that is typically used. This broad industry reported 22,300 vacancies in the spring of 2021. “Health care” job vacancies in the context of this analysis refers to a vacancy that falls within the health care and social assistance industry and the occupational groups of healthcare practitioners and technical occupations or healthcare support occupations. Using this designation, there were about 15,000 job vacancies in health care in spring 2021, and 72% (10,800) of these vacancies were considered difficult to fill by employers.

The health care job vacancies that were difficult to fill had a higher average wage, were more likely to require previous experience, and less likely to require education beyond high school than the health care job vacancies that were not difficult to fill. Both difficult-to-fill and not-difficult-to-fill vacancies were likely to be full-time and permanent positions. 
For each difficult-to-fill vacancy, employers are asked for open-ended responses about their primary challenge filling the opening. Responses are then categorized into 12 common reasons for difficulty. In spring 2021, a lack of applicants and lack of qualified candidates represented a majority of the primary reason employers cited for difficulty filling vacancies. Low wages and unfavorable working conditions were the other top reasons why a vacancy was difficult to fill. Within the difficult-to-fill health care vacancies, the occupations with the most difficult-to-fill vacancies were personal care aides, nursing assistants, and registered nurses. Together these occupations represented 76% of the difficult-to-fill health care vacancies.
In spring 2021, 17% of all difficult-to-fill vacancies mentioned either COVID-19 or Unemployment Insurance benefits as a reason for the vacancy being difficult to fill. In health care, only 5% of the difficult-to-fill vacancies mentioned COVID-19 or Unemployment Insurance benefits.

Many employers referred to a “shortage” of health care workers as the difficult-to-fill reason. A shortage of workers was a common refrain in the pre-2020 expansion period and is not unique to the pandemic era. The most unique part of the difficult-to-fill responses is the sheer volume of them. Many employers are hiring for similar positions at the same time, while also dealing with a dangerous pandemic. Health care jobs in particular are on the frontlines of fighting the effects of the pandemic and may be dealing with a lot of burnout among current staff as well as difficulty attracting new workers.

Employers in all industries and areas across Oregon are reporting difficulty filling the record numbers of job vacancies. Learn more about what employers have said about their difficult-to-fill vacancies in responses to the job vacancy survey here.

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