Summer 2020 Hiring Among Oregon Private Employers

by Jessica Nelson

October 12, 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 46,300 vacancies in summer 2020. Total job openings increased from the level in the spring at the onset of the COVID-19 recession (+9%), but remained well below the level last summer (-26%). The level of job vacancies in the summer was about back to the level in winter 2020, after major disruption due to COVID-19 in the spring.

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 July 2020, job openings in the U.S. rose above 6.2 million again and the number of unemployed dropped to 16.9 million, resulting in a ratio of 2.7 unemployed people per job opening.

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, 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 70,000, leaving 4.8 unemployed Oregonians for every job vacancy in summer 2020.   
In spring 2020, the 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 where 24 percent of businesses reported closures or curtailed operations. In summer 2020, the share of responding businesses reporting curtailments or closures due to COVID-19 restrictions dropped to 7 percent, with the highest shares again occurring in the Portland area (14%) and Northwest Oregon (11%).

Most openings in the summer were for full-time, permanent positions. Health care and social assistance topped the industry list in summer, with 8,400 vacancies. This has been the sector with the most vacancies 17 of the past 19 quarters. Construction had 7,000 vacancies, almost all of which were full-time and permanent, with four out of five requiring experience.

Leisure and hospitality had about 5,200 vacancies in summer. The industry didn’t see its summer surge this year; there were about 10,000 openings during the last two summers. Leisure and hospitality businesses reported the most closures and curtailed operations due to COVID-19 in the spring, affecting 39 percent of businesses in the industry compared with 18 percent overall; by summer the share dropped to 14 percent of leisure and hospitality businesses reporting curtailments or closures related to COVID-19
The average starting wage reported in summer was $19.18, an increase of 7 percent from the average in summer 2019. Total vacancies were down 26 percent from the level last summer, and the number of vacancies offering a starting wage below $15 per hour dropped 52 percent. The number of vacancies offering $15 per hour to $24.99 per hour increased 6 percent, and vacancies paying above $25 per hour dropped by 20 percent.

Summer vacancies were distributed across the state, with the Portland tri-county area accounting for about two out of five. Vacancies dropped the most over the year in the Rogue Valley, Lane County, and Northwest Oregon. 
More details about Oregon Job Vacancies are available on, on the publications page under Job Vacancy Survey.

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