Oregon Job Vacancies: Hiring in 2021 Outpaced Hiring Prior to the Pandemic

by Jessica Nelson

February 23, 2022

Oregon employers reported 97,000 job openings at any given time in 2021. This is a record level of vacancies, after a decline of 22% in 2020. While the volume of vacancies in 2021 exceeded pre-pandemic levels, many of the characteristics Oregon employers were looking for didn’t change much during the pandemic recession and recovery. 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. Differences in 2021 include a much larger volume of difficult-to-fill vacancies, and more vacancies staying open for longer than 60 days, with almost all of the longer-term openings reported as difficult to fill.
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.

The rapid job recovery in 2021 showed up in several ways in the job vacancy survey. It took longer to hire in 2021. Employers reported more vacancies that had been open for 60 days or longer, accounting for 35% of 2021 vacancies, compared with 19% in 2019, just prior to the pandemic. The competitive hiring environment as the economy reopened after pandemic restrictions made it much more difficult for employers to fill their openings. Seven out of 10 vacancies were reported as difficult to fill, up from 57% in 2019.
In 2021, health care and social assistance reported the most vacancies of any industry (22,900), followed by leisure and hospitality (13,800), retail trade (10,100), and manufacturing (9,700). Together these four sectors accounted for 58% of all job openings statewide. Hiring demand was spread across the economy. Except for information, all industries reported at least 2,000 job vacancies at any given time in the year.
Employers were hiring for a wide variety of jobs; they reported vacancies across 432 different occupations. Occupations with the highest number of job vacancies in 2021 reflected the recovery of jobs lost during the early pandemic and efforts to staff up as business capacities moved closer to normal. Trends are also heavily affected by staffing in health care, a sector that continues to deal with a lasting pandemic and which tends to require more education, making the available supply of workers inadequate to meet current needs. Top occupations across the economy included retail salespersons (4,900); personal care aides (4,700); heavy truck drivers (3,000); restaurant cooks (2,700); nursing assistants (2,500); maids and housekeeping cleaners (2,500); and registered nurses (2,100).

Full-Time and Permanent Help Wanted

Across all industries, most job vacancies (78%) offered full-time employment in 2021. That share rose as high as 98% in construction, and 93% in wholesale trade. Leisure and hospitality had a low share compared with the average, at 55% full-time. Restaurant cooks, fast food and counter workers, waiters and waitresses, and maids and housekeeping cleaners 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.

Almost one-third (30%) of job vacancies require education beyond high school. That varied widely among industries. While 70% of both private education services and professional and technical services job openings required higher education, few openings among natural resources and mining (16%), retail trade (12%), and leisure and hospitality (6%) vacancies required education beyond high school.
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 $15.83 per hour in 2021. That rose to $17.17 for job vacancies requiring a high school diploma. Employers offered an average of $26.22 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 $33.36.

Shares of job vacancies requiring previous experience also rose along with education requirements. While 33% 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 75% of job vacancies where applicants needed postsecondary or other certifications. Nearly all (89%) job openings at the bachelor’s and advanced degree level required previous work experience.

As rapid hiring occurred in 2021 to replace jobs lost in 2020 during the pandemic, Oregon’s job vacancies rose to record levels. Employers are facing more difficulty hiring to fill their job openings and those listings are often staying open longer as employers compete for the limited supply of available workers. Still, the characteristics employers are looking for haven’t changed much in the pandemic and recovery. 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 QualityInfo.org.


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