Portland Metro Job Vacancies Reach Record High in 2021

by Amy Vander Vliet

March 31, 2022

Private firms in Portland Metro (Multnomah and Washington counties) were looking to fill a record 28,000 job vacancies at any given time in 2021, according to the Oregon Employment Department’s latest Job Vacancy Survey.

The record level of vacancies came as employers attempted to replace jobs lost during the pandemic recession while competing for a limited number of available workers. The survey’s results reflect the extent of their struggles: the share of vacancies reported as difficult to fill shot up from about half of all openings in the years prior to the pandemic to nearly two-thirds in 2021, and the share of vacancies open for longer than 60 days also increased significantly, from 16% to 29%.
By Industry

Metro employers across all broad industries reported vacancies in 2021. Health care and social assistance accounted for the largest number with 5,700 openings at any given time; an all-time high for a sector that has been struggling with worker shortages throughout most of the pandemic. Retail trade came in a distant second (3,400), followed by leisure and hospitality (3,000), and professional, scientific, and technical services (2,900). Together these four sectors accounted for over half of all job openings in the region.
By Occupation

Employers were looking to fill a wide variety of jobs in 2021. They reported vacancies across 171 different occupations, 70 of which had 100 or more openings at any given time. Retail salespersons had the largest number of vacancies (2,100), as has been the case in two of the three years leading up to the pandemic. Two occupations cracked the ‘Top 10’ list for the first time in at least a decade: Dental assistants and hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks. Maids and housekeeping cleaners reappeared on the list after a five year absence. Although explanations aren’t included in the survey, it’s not a stretch to speculate that wages, a tight labor market, and/or COVID fears played a role in the changing composition of 2021’s ‘Top 10’ list.
By Education and Wages

Half of all job vacancies either had no educational requirement at all or required only a high school diploma; lower than the statewide share (63%). On the other end of the spectrum, 12% required a bachelor’s or advanced degree; double that of Oregon as a whole (6%). Both Portland Metro and Oregon reported a similar share of vacancies requiring a postsecondary degree or other certification (22-23%).

The average hourly wage for vacancies in Portland Metro was $22.41; 14% higher than statewide ($19.69) and higher than any other region in Oregon. Wages were tightly correlated with education requirements. Job openings with no required education offered an average wage of $16.93, less than half of the $36.19 offered for jobs requiring a bachelor’s or advanced degree.
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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