Portland Metropolitan Area Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance

by Amy Vander Vliet

May 22, 2020

In the week ending May 16, 2020, the Oregon Employment Department processed 9,055 initial claims for unemployment insurance filed by residents of the Portland Metropolitan Area (Oregon portion); 56.4 percent of the statewide total.

Since the third week of March, when restaurants, stores, and other businesses began closing or curtailing operations due to COVID-19, 144,194 claims have been processed; 12 times more than during this same time period a year ago (12,211).
By Industry

Every sector has been impacted by the pandemic. However, three industries comprise half of all initial claims for unemployment insurance processed over the past nine weeks:

  • Accommodation and food services make up nearly one-quarter of all processed claims (34,168). Bars and restaurants were among the first and most severely impacted businesses.
  • Health care and social assistance makes up the second-largest share (20,082; 14%). Elective surgeries, non-urgent care, dental cleaning, and eye exams were on hold through April. Some of these services resumed in May, albeit with restrictions and limited capacity.
  • Retail trade makes up 13 percent (18,038). While some stand-alone retail that was previously closed was allowed to open May 15, many stores and shopping malls remain closed.
Accommodation and food services has taken the largest hit, accounting for nearly three times as many claims as jobs. Arts, entertainment, and recreation has almost twice as many claims as employment. On the other end of the spectrum, finance and insurance and company headquarters have far fewer claims relative to their size. Many workers in these industries are able to work from home or maintain social distance in the workplace.

Claims Increase in Other Industries

While accommodation and food services continue to post large numbers of initial claims, the industry’s share has declined from half of total initial claims in mid-March to 11 percent in the third week of May. During this same time, most other industries have seen their share of claims increase, notably educational services and manufacturing.
Workers in Low-Wage Industries More Impacted

Layoffs (as measured by claims) have affected more than 144,000 Portland-area residents across all industries, but not equally. The most vulnerable (as measured by wages) are significantly more impacted. Industries paying $35,000 or less account for the largest share of claims. These include restaurants, bars, hotels, and stores. Meanwhile, the highest paying industries (greater than $70,000) represent only 25 percent of initial claims processed but 41 percent of total employment. These include manufacturing, professional and technical services (e.g. accounting, engineering, legal), and wholesale trade.
For the time being, the Oregon Employment Department will be issuing the latest data regarding unemployment insurance claims every Thursday at 10:00 a.m. You can visit our website for more details at https://www.QualityInfo.org/covid-19.

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