Oregon Unemployment Declines Slowing

Photo: KATU

Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.0 percent in September from 8.5 percent, as revised, in August. For the past few months, Oregon’s unemployment rate has closely tracked the national unemployment rate which fell to 7.9 percent in September from 8.4 percent in August.

Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 5,100 jobs in September, following a revised gain of 16,200 jobs in August. Over the past three months the rate of job growth slowed, with 39,000 jobs added in that time, following more rapid growth in May and June, when 83,100 jobs were added. Despite the recent slowdown, Oregon employers added jobs in each of the past five months, and the state has recovered 45 percent of the jobs cut in March and April.

Over-the-month job gains in September were largest in leisure and hospitality (+2,600 jobs); financial activities (+1,600); health care and social assistance (+1,600); retail trade (+1,500); and information (+1,200). Two industries cut a substantial number of jobs in September: construction (-2,600 jobs) and private educational services (-1,400).

Leisure and hospitality continues to be the industry most impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its employment bounced back substantially in May and June, but job gains have slowed over the past three months. Employment totaled 163,200 in September, which was down 53,400 jobs, or 24.7%, since its peak month of February.

Manufacturing lost a substantial number of jobs this spring and hasn’t rebounded. Employment stood at 180,000 jobs in September, which was close to its level of the past five months. Since September 2019, manufacturing cut 18,100 jobs with losses widespread throughout most component industries. During that time, primary metals manufacturing dropped the most in percentage terms, shedding 2,600 jobs, or 28 percent. Next in line was transportation equipment manufacturing which cut 19 percent. Two other manufacturing industries dropped at least 10 percent: food manufacturing (-4,200 jobs, or -14%) and electronic instrument manufacturing (-600 jobs, or -11%). None of the published manufacturing industries added a substantial number of jobs over the past 12 months.

In contrast, two major industries rose closer to pre-pandemic employment levels. Retail trade rebounded rapidly, adding 4,700 jobs over the past two months. This left the industry down only 4,800 jobs, or 2.3 percent, since February. Certain retailers responded to strong demand lately, with food and beverage stores up 900 jobs, or 2.1 percent, since last September. Similarly, building material and garden supply stores added 900 jobs, or 5.4 percent in that time, while general merchandise stores added 1,100 jobs or 2.7 percent. Clearly consumer preferences and demands have shifted substantially, as reflected by job losses in several categories including clothing stores, which cut 8,100 jobs, or 51.6 percent, over the year, and miscellaneous store retailers, which shed 2,800 jobs, or 16.5 percent.

Health care and social assistance added 2,300 jobs over the past two months and was only 8,200 jobs, or 3.1 percent, below its recent high in February. Over the past 12 months, social assistance cut 4,900 jobs, or 8.4 percent. However, health care declined only 800 jobs in that time.

Source: Oregon Employment Department