Oregon Adds 20,000 Jobs In July

Photo: Ford, Brad

Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.2% in July from 5.6% in June. July was the 15th consecutive monthly decline in Oregon’s unemployment rate. The reduction in the unemployment rate accelerated over the past two months with a 0.2 percentage point drop in June followed by a 0.4 point drop in July. These improvements followed slow declines of 0.1 point per month in each of the first five months of 2021.

Oregon’s July unemployment rate declined dramatically from its high of 13.2% in April 2020, at the peak of the last recession, to 5.2% in July. However, the state’s unemployment rate is still moderately above the period of record low rates in the years prior to the pandemic. During January 2017 through March 2020, Oregon’s unemployment rate was fairly steady, averaging 3.9%.

For the past several years, Oregon’s unemployment rate generally has closely tracked the U.S. unemployment rate. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 5.4% in July from 5.9% in June.

In Oregon, nonfarm payroll employment grew by 20,000 in July, following monthly gains averaging 9,100 in the prior six months. Gains in July were largest in government (+12,800 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (+7,100). Only one major industry shed more than 900 jobs: transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-2,500 jobs).

Government job gains in July were concentrated in local government — in contrast with federal government and state government which both experienced their normal seasonal pattern in July. Throughout the economic recovery of the past year, local government averaged more than 20,000 jobs below its pre-recession level of about 230,000. But in July, seasonally adjusted employment shot upward by 12,800 jobs. Likely factors in the stronger July pattern this year include schools not laying off the typical numbers of employees for the summer and cities and counties ramping up employment closer to pre-pandemic levels.

Leisure and hospitality expanded rapidly in July, adding 7,100 jobs. Despite this gain, it still accounts for the bulk of Oregon’s jobs not recovered since early 2020, with 44,500 jobs left to recover to reach the prior peak month of February 2020. The industry has regained 60% of jobs lost early in the pandemic.

Transportation, warehousing, and utilities declined by 2,500 jobs in July. This loss may reflect a change in the seasonal pattern of the industry over the past two years. With online shopping and delivery rapidly growing, the industry has exploded over the last few years. It ramped up by 12,500 jobs between April and December of last year, which was about double the industry’s seasonal hiring a few years prior. Despite the recent hiccup in July, the industry is still 5,100 jobs above its July 2019 total of 70,400 jobs. 

Source: Oregon Employment Department

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