Job Vacancies Abound: Tips for Employers Competing in the NW Oregon Labor Market

by Shawna Sykes

August 10, 2021

Job vacancies in NW Oregon in spring 2021 were nearly four times the number of spring 2020 and more than double the level of spring 2019. Within the five-county region (Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties), there were an estimated 9,825 job vacancies on any given day this spring, according to our most recent Job Vacancy Survey results. This is more than double the number of vacancies from the winter 2021 survey (4,589).

NW Oregon counties currently have unemployment rates below their long-term average unemployment rates. So despite what some may think, there really isn’t a large pool of workers on the sidelines standing by to get put into the workforce game.

And the bad news is, this labor shortage is probably going to get worse. The demographics of the NW Oregon area indicate that we have a large number (about 27%) of people in the workforce poised to retire at any time at age 55 and over. And we’ve had a significant decline in the number of workers age 14 to 21 as well as workers 35 to 54 years old since 2001. So unless we get an increase in in-migration to the region, we will be struggling just to fill current jobs, let alone those of any new firms or expanding firms.
So what’s a business to do? Here are a few things we’re seeing in current job listings and hearing from businesses to attract and retain workers:

  • Increasing wages. This could be increases in hourly wages, sign-on bonuses, retention bonuses, referral bonuses, productivity incentives, commissions, etc. It all comes down to financial incentives. Be sure to get advice on how Oregon’s pay equity law might apply to your workforce and use our occupational profile tool to compare your wages to wages of similar jobs in our area. You can find it here or contact me for help.
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  • Offering more flexibility to workers. Can staff work from home full time or part time? Can they work four ten hour days and have each Friday off? Can they wear sweat pants to work, have nose rings and purple hair? Companies that are flexible and allow people to be comfortable and accepted for who they are will be more appealing to workers.
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  • Increasing benefits. Offering free meals, paid vacations and holidays, health care, life insurance, pet insurance, retirement benefits, tuition reimbursement, child care, relocation assistance, stock options, and employee discounts are all great ways to entice applicants and retain workers, but not every business can provide them all. Consider who your typical employee is and what might be important to them as you consider what type of benefits would be most attractive to them.
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  • Giving staff the tools they need to be successful. For some jobs, this may mean literally giving them a hammer or a wrench. For others, this may mean job-specific training, structured guidance, and caring leadership.
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  • Doing what it takes to keep good workers. Be nice, treat staff with kindness, empathy and understanding, give them input into the workplace environment, help them see their importance in the organization, coach them, and reward them for their efforts. Offer training opportunities that lead to career advancement. Workers want to be valued and appreciated so be sure you are doing that.
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  • Making your job listings more fun and creative.  Applicants are attracted to a workplace that sounds fun. Make sure your job listings reflect your fun work environment.
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  • Making it easier to apply. Revamp your application so that it is short, easy, and online.
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  • Utilizing WorkSource Oregon’s recruitment and training resources. We can promote your job openings online and through virtual and drive-through job fairs. When workers are scarce, you need to pull out all the stops, right? We will try to help you find applicants, connect you with workforce training resources, and provide labor market information to keep you competitive in the labor market. Go to www.WorkingInOregon.org for more information.

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