Spring 2020 Hiring Among Oregon Private Employers

by Anna Johnson

August 20, 2020

Each quarter, the Oregon Employment Department surveys private employers from all industries and areas of the state to ask about the job vacancies they are actively trying to fill. Oregon businesses reported 42,500 vacancies in spring 2020. Total job openings fell from winter levels (-10%), and dropped well below the level last spring (-18%). But employers continued to hire in the spring, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of unemployed surged in the spring with layoffs related to the pandemic, both in Oregon and across the United States. Nationally, unemployment increased by 16 million between January 2020 and April 2020, when the number of unemployed in the U.S. reached 22.5 million. The number of private-sector job openings in the U.S., as measured by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, didn’t change as drastically. The number of openings fell in the first part of the year, moving from 6.2 million in January to 4.7 million in April. By April there were 4.8 unemployed people for every job opening, a spike from the ratio of 1-to-1 seen throughout the last three years.

In Oregon, the ratio shot even higher in the spring as the number of unemployed surged. In spring 2020, there were 7.1 unemployed people for every job vacancy. The current ratio is similar to that measured in early 2013 as the state was still recovering from the Great Recession. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was very swift, rapidly spreading across the labor market and taking the economy essentially from full employment to deep recession in just a couple of months.  
The spring 2020 Oregon Job Vacancy Survey included a new question: “Is this location closed or operations curtailed due to COVID-19 restrictions?” About 18 percent of responding businesses in spring 2020 reported being curtailed or closed due to COVID-19. Northwest Oregon and the Portland Metro area reported the most COVID-19 effects on business operations. Twenty-four percent of businesses in those areas reported being closed or having curtailed operations. The summer 2020 survey also includes this question, and while we expect a smaller share of employers to report closures and curtailments, we know the business recovery from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is far from complete. Results of the summer survey will be available in early October.

In the spring of 2020, businesses reported hiring in various industries. Administrative, management, and waste services topped the industry list in spring, totaling 10,500. Vacancies for janitors and cleaners, and stockers and order fillers surged in the spring. Health care and social assistance dropped to second-most vacancies, with 8,700 vacancies. This has been the sector with the most vacancies in 16 of the past 18 quarters. Leisure and hospitality had about 4,800 vacancies in spring, down from an estimated 7,700 vacancies in winter. Leisure and hospitality businesses reported the most closures and curtailed operations due to COVID-19, affecting 39 percent of businesses in the industry compared with 18 percent overall.
Most openings in the spring were for full-time, permanent positions. The average starting wage reported in spring was $17.37, down 4 percent from the average in spring 2019. Total vacancies were down 18 percent in the spring compared with last year, with the greatest declines among jobs paying more than $25 per hour. The number of vacancies paying less than $15 per hour dropped just 6 percent.

Spring vacancies were distributed across the state, with the Portland tri-county area accounting for two out of five. Vacancies dropped the most over the year in Clackamas County and the East Cascades. Northwest Oregon, Lane County, and Eastern Oregon also had large declines.
More details about Oregon Job Vacancies are available on QualityInfo.org, on the publications page under Job Vacancy Survey.


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