Pandemic Recession Impacts Certain Oregonians


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The acute onset and depth of the pandemic recession was unlike anything seen previously in Oregon. What was a healthy economy lost 286,000 jobs in two months’ time. The impacts were not evenly distributed, with in-person, service-based sectors experiencing significantly higher rates of job loss.

  • Unemployment spiked to a record high of 13.2% in April 2020.
  • Taken together, leisure and hospitality, other services – including hair salons, repair shops, and other personal services – and private education accounted for nearly half (48%) of all jobs lost in the initial economic shock.
  • While most sectors began rebounding from the initial pandemic recession job losses, local government – and public education in particular – did not, continuing to shed jobs as the pandemic wore on.

Leisure and hospitality in particular employed more women, more of Oregon’s young workers, and more Black, Indigenous, and workers from communities of color than Oregon’s economy overall. Other hard-hit sectors also tended to have more women and more low-wage workers. These Oregonians experienced disparate job impacts of the pandemic recession in 2020.

  • The Hispanic or Latino workforce was overrepresented in leisure and hospitality jobs.
  • Leisure and hospitality, other services, and education all had higher shares of women, and higher shares of minimum-wage jobs.
  • More broadly, all sectors of Oregon’s economy lost jobs in the initial downturn. Lower-wage earners saw the greatest job losses in nearly all of them.

Disparate impacts to these workers show in Oregon’s unemployment claims (UI) data. They’re also reflected in the benefit payments that served as a safety net to displaced workers and business owners under public health restrictions.

  • While regular unemployment claims surged across all demographics, it happened to an even greater degree to for women than men during the pandemic recession.
  • Similarly, Oregon’s younger workers (ages 16 to 24) had claims volume rise to a greater degree than for other age groups.
  • Hispanic or Latino workers’ share of unemployment claims did not rise during the pandemic, despite having higher shares of workers in leisure and hospitality.

Source: Oregon Employment Department


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