Portland Metropolitan Area Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance

by Amy Vander Vliet

June 25, 2020

In the week ending June 20, 2020, the Oregon Employment Department processed 6,273 initial claims for unemployment insurance filed by residents of the Portland Metropolitan Area (Oregon portion); 53.1 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, 186,961 claims have been processed; half of the statewide total and 10 times more than during this same time a year ago (18,681). The total number of initial claims represent 19 percent of the region’s labor force.
By Industry

Every sector has been affected by the pandemic, with accommodation and food services hit hardest. Bars and restaurants were among the first and most severely impacted businesses, and lodging vacancy rates soared as travel and tourism came to a virtual standstill. Initial claims filed by workers in these establishments since the start of the pandemic account for 21 percent of all claims and represent roughly 40 percent of the industry’s pre-COVID employment.
Health care and social assistance makes up the second-largest share (14%) of initial claims. Elective surgeries, non-urgent care, dental cleaning, and eye exams were on hold through April, with some of these services resuming on a limited basis in May.

Retail trade accounts for 12 percent of processed claims. Clothing, furniture, shoe, book stores and other retail remained closed through April, with restrictions lifted in May.

Education (public and private) saw a surge of initial claims in May as many school districts announced furloughs and cuts due to budget concerns.

Manufacturing’s share of initial claims has increased in recent weeks; a function a steady number of claims combined with declining levels in other industries. In June it accounted for 12 percent of processed claims; second only to education (and tied with accommodation and food services). PCC Structurals and Evraz announced layoffs in recent weeks.

Workers in Low-Wage Industries Most Impacted

Layoffs have affected tens of thousands of Portland-area residents, but not equally. The most vulnerable (as measured by wages) are significantly more impacted. Lower-paying industries ($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 41 percent of total employment but only 26 percent of initial claims. 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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