In November, Oregon added 10,000 jobs to its nonfarm payroll employment, according to Dec. 14 numbers reported from the State of Oregon Employment Department. This follows an increasing trend, as Oregon added 6,400 jobs in October, the report said. The department's report is developed in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"So far in 2021, Oregon employers have added 100,000 jobs. As of November, we have regained four out of five jobs that were lost in the spring of 2020 — that's about the same as the U.S.," said Gail Krumenauer, state employment economist with the Oregon Employment Department, in a Dec. 14 press conference. "While we're seeing some weakness in a couple of areas of Oregon's economy, overall, the labor market has had a strong recovery so far in 2021."
On the whole, Oregon's unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in November — the same at the national rate — which is down from 4.4% in October. This shows significant promise, considering around six months ago the unemployment rate in Oregon was 6%, officials said. Oregon's recent record unemployment rate was 3.9% during 2017-2019.
The latest numbers from the department show that November's largest job gains in Oregon were in the leisure and hospitality industry, adding a total 4,100 jobs. This continues an upward hiring trend for the sector, which added 3,600 jobs in October.
Regardless, the leisure and hospitality industry is the sector where most jobs lost during the Covid recession have not yet been recovered. Although the industry has regained 77% of its jobs lost early in the pandemic, it is still 25,400 jobs behind its employment numbers from February 2020, the department reported.
Additionally, the construction industry added the second-most jobs to Oregon in November, at 1,800.
The construction sector is performing well: the industry employed 113,800 total workers in Oregon during November, which is 500 more jobs than its previous February 2020 record during the height of the building boom.
Other significant job gains for the state were seen in the professional business services sector, which added 1,600 jobs in November, and in retail trade, which added 1,100.
On the other hand, Oregon saw a loss of 1,100 jobs in health care and social assistance in November, the report found.
"We're still seeing weaker employment trends in private health care and social assistance: it's the only major sector that had a big decline in November and lost 1,100 jobs," Krumenauer said. "And it's gone down by 400 jobs compared to a year ago, which isn't a big loss, but total nonfarm payroll employment has grown by 4.5% over that same period."
Krumenauer told the Business Tribune that there are different trends going on in each of the major parts of both private health care and social assistance.
Under the broad industry of education and health services, the report found Oregon's November employment numbers were 5% below the pre-pandemic peak, a difference of 16,000 jobs. Compared to Oregon' s pre-pandemic highs, jobs in nursing and residential care facilities are down 6,900; private educational services are down 3,900 jobs; hospital employment is down 2,700 jobs; and ambulatory health care services are down 1,200 jobs this November.
On the other hand, Krumenauer said that social assistance is back to its pre-pandemic range and added 5,300 jobs during 2021.
Krumenauer also said local government jobs also show losses, falling by 300 jobs in November.
"We're seen hiring shortfalls of about 7,400 jobs in local government between August and November, and that's really due to schools not hiring as much as they usually do this time of year," Krumenauer said.
Krumenauer said vaccine requirements can affect some movement and departures in health care and education, but it's not the main driver.
"Given that these trends are long-running in some areas and pre-date the vaccine requirements in both sectors, and because we're seeing the same trends nationally in both sectors — meaning even when you include the states that don't have these vaccine requirements — there's something else, and I would argue bigger, happening," Krumenauer said.
She said as of October, the rate of resignations in public education and health care was not higher than the overall economy: 3% of the national workforce quit their jobs during the month of October, the same rate for private health care and social assistance. In public education, it was 1%, she said, according to the job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS).
Krumenauer said the October quit rate in Oregon was 4%, including layoffs, fired, quit, and retired across all sectors, but that health care and social assistance saw a lower quit rate of 3%, while public education saw a quit rate of just over 1%.
"Looking into the new year and into the future, it means these sectors of the economy are feeling the crunch of a competitive hiring environment and low unemployment," Krumenauer said. "It's hard to find enough workers. The high-contact and in-person nature of some parts of these industries has an effect too, until Covid itself is under greater control for a more sustained period of time."
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