Oregon’s Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance

by Anna Johnson

May 22, 2020

Public health measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19 began in Oregon in mid-March. One of the most immediate visible impacts of these measures has been mass layoffs. Social distancing practices and workplace and gathering changes have severely impacted business practices in all industries around the state. Now that two months of data about initial claims for unemployment insurance are available, we can take a comprehensive look at how different industries have been impacted.

From March 15 through May 16, 2020, the Oregon Employment Department received about 412,000 initial claims for traditional Unemployment Insurance. This does not even include claims for the newly implemented Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which covers the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers. Currently, we have detailed data for about 303,200 of the claims that have been processed. This data comes from the Program for Measuring Insured Employed Statistics (PROMIS).
About half (50.8%) of all the processed initial claims from the past two months came from three industries. Accommodation and food services made up 23.3 percent of all processed claims. Bars, restaurants, and hotels were among the first and most severely impacted businesses. Health care and social assistance makes up the second-largest share (14.9%). Elective surgeries, non-urgent care, dental cleanings, and eye exams were on hold through April. Some of these services began to resume on May 1. Retail trade makes up 12.6 percent of initial claims processed in Oregon. Shopping malls and other stores where it is difficult to maintain social distancing have closed. Phase 1 reopening, with certain safety conditions met, began in parts of the state on May 15.

Based on its share of employment in Oregon, the accommodation and food services industry has been hit the hardest. In 2019, this industry made up 9.7 percent of total employment, but it accounts for 23.3 percent of initial claims. On the other end of the spectrum, professional and technical services, public administration, and educational services have fewer initial claims for Unemployment Insurance relative to their share of employment. Workers in these industries may be able to work from home or maintain social distance in the workplace more easily than in the hardest hit industries.
Over the past two months, all industries across the state have been affected, but not equally. Low-wage industries have been more significantly impacted than higher-paying industries. Almost half (45.2%) of initial claims processed from March 15 through May 16 have come from industries that annually pay around $40,000 or less. In 2019, the industries that pay less than $40,000, including accommodation and food services, represented only 29.2 percent of employment in Oregon. Retail trade, another of the hardest hit industries, pays an average wage of less than $40,000 as well.

Industries that on average pay between $40,000 and $55,000 annually represented 28.5 percent of initial unemployment insurance claims and 33.3 percent of 2019 employment in Oregon. Industries with an average wage between $55,000 and $70,000 represented 7.9 percent of unemployment insurance initial claims and 10.3 percent of 2019 employment. The industries paying on average over $70,000, like management of companies and professional and technical services, only had 18.5 percent of the initial unemployment insurance claims over the past two months and 27.3 percent of 2019 employment.
The Oregon Employment Department will be issuing the latest initial claims for Unemployment Insurance data every Thursday. For more details about claims, including county level industry detail and demographic information, visit https://www.qualityinfo.org/covid-19.

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