Job Flows in Oregon: Pandemic Decline

by William Burchard

September 9, 2021

In March and April of 2020, Oregon lost 286,000 nonfarm payroll jobs. That’s a whopping loss of 14.5%. These losses affected the economy, and still do, in ways we can’t fully understand.

As more data have become available from partners at the U.S. Census Bureau, workers who changed jobs during the second quarter of 2020 can be tracked. In other words, if someone in Washington’s leisure and hospitality sector moved to Oregon’s manufacturing sector, the data would reflect the move. The latest quarter of available data for is the second quarter of 2020 – when the pandemic losses hit.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau can shine light on what happened to movement between jobs during the tumultuous second quarter of 2020. The data reflect significant changes both within Oregon and between its neighboring states. This article will focus on the decline in job movement between states, movement by age, and job flows within Oregon.

Job Flows Between States

Each year, significant job flows occur between Oregon, Washington, and California. These flows are also rather predictable. During the second quarter of 2020, when large pandemic losses hit the entire country, job flows into and out of Oregon dropped significantly.

This section focuses on two figures: net job gains/losses, and total job flows. Net job gains/losses remained little changed in the second quarter of 2020, but total flows declined by thousands.

From 2015 to 2019 (measured by second quarter flows), job movement from Washington to Oregon ranged from about 5,000 to 5,400 with an average of 5,300. In the second quarter of 2020, this figure was just 3,600. Moving the other way, an average of 6,000 workers moved from jobs in Oregon to jobs in Washington from 2015 to 2019. In 2020, this figure was 4,700.

This means that between the second quarters of 2019 and of 2020, about 1,100 more workers from Oregon moved to Washington than the reverse. This figure has trended up and was similar to that in 2019, making it tough to attribute to the pandemic.

In the California and Oregon relationship, from the second quarters of 2019 to 2020, similar drops occurred. About 5,000 jobs usually flow from Oregon to California in the second quarter. In 2020, this figure was just 4,000. In the other direction, Oregon usually sees movement of about 2,500 in the direction of California, and that figure dropped to 1,800 in 2020. This leaves a net 2,200 movement from California to Oregon.

It is tough to show the magnitude of the job flow decrease looking at just the net figures. In fact, the net figures did not change much compared with previous years. What is telling of the decrease in job flows is the sum of all flows into and out of Washington and California. These figures dropped drastically, even though the net gain/loss was relatively unchanged.
Flows by Age

Within Oregon, fewer workers changed jobs in the second quarter of 2020. Total figures show us that workers in the 25 to 34 age category saw the largest change in job flows. In the second quarter of 2019, 24,400 workers in this group changed jobs. In 2020, that figure was just 15,600.
Looking at percent change over the year, job flows were pretty similar among age groups. Focusing on those in the 22 to 64 age groups, job flows dropped between 32% and 36% over the year. This similarity in growth between age groups is typical for flows within Oregon, but it usually hovers around -1% to 1%.

This contrasts with flows by age group between states. The over-the-year change in flows between Oregon and other states is more bell-shaped across age groups, with the 22 to 24 and 25 to 34 age groups dropping significantly, and drops tapering off in the older and younger groups. This is typical for movement across state lines, and supports the idea that the 25 to 34 age group is most mobile.

Job Flows in Oregon

Within Oregon, total job flows were around 80,000 in the second quarter of each year heading into the pandemic (years 2015-2019). In the second quarter of 2020, just 57,000 people changed jobs.

As leisure and hospitality (arts, entertainment, and recreation, along with accommodation and food services) lost more than 100,000 jobs during the height of the pandemic, the focus of this analysis will be on this industry, along with retail trade.

In the second quarter of 2019, there were around 6,500 job changes in the accommodation and food services industry. In the second quarter of 2020, this figure dropped to just 2,900. Likewise, job changes dropped in arts, entertainment, and recreation, as well as retail trade. Most industries not shown in this table also saw declines.
Movement across industries, for example, retail trade to accommodation and food services, also dropped between 2019 and 2020. The most noticeable difference was indeed in the move from retail trade to accommodation and food services. In the second quarter of 2019, 2,000 people moved. In 2020, that figure was just 700.

Over the same time period, movement from accommodation and food services to retail trade actually increased by a small amount.

The Data

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program provides information about the origin and destination of workers changing jobs. These job-to-job flow statistics show the age, gender, industries, and geographic location of workers entering and leaving Oregon. They also provide insights on job movements across industries within the state.



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