Spring 2021 Hiring Among Oregon Private Employers

by Anna Johnson

July 14, 2021

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 97,800 vacancies in spring 2021. Total job openings increased 77% from the winter and 130% from spring 2020. This is the highest number of job vacancies seen in Oregon since the beginning of this survey in 2013. The previous high was 66,600 vacancies in summer 2017. The record high level of job vacancies is not unique to Oregon right now. The number of private-sector job openings in the U.S. totaled 8,995,000 in April 2021, beating the previous high seen in October 2018 (7,055,000) significantly.

The unemployed-to-vacancy ratio returned to pre-pandemic levels in spring 2021, just one year after the onset of the COVID-19 recession. The number of unemployed has declined swiftly since surging in spring 2020 with layoffs related to the pandemic, both in Oregon and across the United States. Nationally, unemployment increased by 17 million between January 2020 and April 2020, when the number of unemployed in the U.S. reached 23.1 million. The number of private-sector job openings in the U.S., as measured by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, fell by 2.3 million between January 2020 and April 2020, resulting in a ratio of more than five unemployed people for every job opening. As pandemic spikes and restrictions have eased, by April 2021 job openings in the U.S. rose above 8.9 million and the number of unemployed sank to 9.8 million, resulting in a ratio of 1.1 unemployed people per job opening.

In Oregon, the ratio shot even higher last spring as the number of unemployed surged. In spring 2020, there were 5.8 unemployed people for every job vacancy, similar to the ratio measured in early 2013 as the state was 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. By July, the number of unemployed in Oregon had dropped by more than 46,300, leaving 4.2 unemployed Oregonians for every job vacancy in summer 2020. By April 2021, the number of unemployed Oregonians dropped more and the number of job vacancies rose significantly, leaving 1.3 unemployed persons per job opening, down from the 2.4 unemployed persons per job opening in winter 2021.
Most openings in the spring were for full-time, permanent positions. Health care and social assistance topped the industry list in spring, with 22,200 vacancies. This has been the sector with the most vacancies 20 of the past 22 quarters. The leisure and hospitality industry had 19,900 vacancies, with 55% full-time positions and 7% requiring education beyond high school.

Hiring demand was widespread throughout industries and occupations. Four industries experienced record high vacancies: health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, retail trade (10,500 vacancies), and other services (7,000 vacancies). A majority of employers in every industry reported their vacancies as difficult to fill. Overall, 71% of vacancies were considered difficult to fill, another record high for this series.

Employers reported vacancies in more than 240 different occupations. The occupations with the most vacancies in spring 2021 were: retail salespersons (5,500 vacancies), maids and housekeeping cleaners (4,800 vacancies), personal care aides (3,700 vacancies), and waiters and waitresses (3,300 vacancies).
The average starting wage reported in spring was $18.44, a 3% inflation-adjusted increase from spring 2020. Total vacancies were up 130% from the level last spring at the height of pandemic restrictions. The number of vacancies offering a starting wage below $15 per hour increased the slowest, at 64%. The number of vacancies offering between $15 and $25 per hour more than doubled (+187%), as did vacancies paying above $25 per hour (+174%).

Spring vacancies were distributed across the state, with the Portland tri-county area accounting for about 40%. Vacancies increased over the year in every region of the state, with the largest gains in Northwest Oregon and Clackamas. 
More details about Oregon Job Vacancies are available on QualityInfo.org, on the publications page under Job Vacancy Survey.

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