Winter 2021 Hiring Among Oregon Private Employers

by Anna Johnson

April 15, 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 55,100 vacancies in winter 2021. Total job openings increased from the level last winter (+16%). The level of job vacancies in the winter was back to the levels seen before major disruption due to COVID-19 in the spring.

The number of unemployed surged 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 and April, resulting in a ratio of more than five unemployed people for every job opening, a spike from the ratio of 1-to-1 seen throughout the last three years. After dropping significantly in the summer and fall, the unemployed-to-vacancy ratio ticked up slightly in the winter. In January 2021, job openings in the U.S. rose above 6.3 million and the number of unemployed was 10.8 million, resulting in a ratio of 1.7 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 41,000, leaving 4.4 unemployed Oregonians for every job vacancy in summer 2020. By January 2021, the number of unemployed Oregonians rose slightly and the number of job vacancies rose, leaving 2.7 unemployed persons per job opening, up slightly from the 2.5 unemployed persons per job opening in fall 2020.
Starting 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% 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; 24% of businesses in those areas reported being closed or having curtailed operations. The share of responding businesses reporting curtailments or closures due to COVID-19 restrictions dropped to 7% in the summer and 6% in the fall. In winter 2021, 5% of respondents reported a closure or curtailment due to COVID-19.

Most openings in the winter were for full-time, permanent positions. Health care and social assistance topped the industry list in winter, with 13,700 vacancies. This has been the sector with the most vacancies 19 of the past 21 quarters. The leisure and hospitality industry had 6,700 vacancies, and other services had 6,200. Eleven out of 14 major industries had more than 2,000 vacancies in winter 2021. While we’ve all seen evidence of local school districts hiring as in-person classes resume, those openings and other government hiring aren’t captured in this survey of private-sector businesses.
The average starting wage reported in winter was $18.99 per hour, similar to the $18.89 average in winter 2020. Total vacancies were up 16% from the level last winter. The number of vacancies offering a starting wage below $15 per hour decreased 1%. Vacancies offering between $15 and $24.99 per hour had the greatest gain, increasing 74%, and vacancies paying above $25 per hour increased by 34%.

Winter vacancies were distributed across the state, with the Portland tri-county area accounting for about 40%. Vacancies increased the most over the year in the Mid-Valley and Rogue Valley regions.
More details about Oregon Job Vacancies are available on, on the publications page under Job Vacancy Survey.


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