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Oregon employers struggle to fill increasing job openings as unemployment rates remain low

A help wanted sign is posted on a restaurant in Media, Pa. Nationally, there are around two job openings for every unemployed person. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6% in March, April, May, and June.
Matt Rourke
/
AP
A help wanted sign is posted on a restaurant in Media, Pa. Nationally, there are around two job openings for every unemployed person. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6% in March, April, May, and June.

Oregon saw 8,700 new jobs added in June, following gains averaging 6,200 jobs in the prior seven months. The state had over 106,000 available jobs in the month.

Oregon saw a surge in job openings in June, with employers struggling to fill those open positions amid a nearly complete restoration of jobs lost during the pandemic, according to state officials.

Oregon added 8,700 jobs in June according to state data, the highest monthly increase since the start of the year.

The average increase for the seven months prior was 6,200 new jobs a month.

As of June, Oregon has regained 94% of the jobs that were lost in the pandemic recession. The U.S. has regained 98%.

“Oregon employers have now had more than 100,000 job openings at any given time for over a year,” Oregon Employment Department Economist Gail Krumenauer said at a press conference Wednesday.

Oregon’s unemployment rate has remained under 4% for the last four months. The unemployment rate of 3.6% in June was essentially unchanged from May.

”Now we’re in this situation where the number of unemployed Oregonians is really low, really close to what it was in 2019,” Krumenauer said. “But now employers are trying to fill about twice as many job openings.”

Oregon is not alone in this. Nationally, there are around two job openings for every unemployed person. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6% in March, April, May, and June.

Krumenauer said the need for workers in Oregon is widespread with businesses looking to fill a variety of jobs in more than 280 different occupations.

The number of job openings is extremely high for Oregon, according to Krumenauer. Prior to 2021, the highest number of available jobs was 67,000 in 2017.

Krumenauer said a few things are at play: Oregon added jobs back rapidly after the pandemic recession; people have retired; Oregon’s labor force is bigger; and there is an increase of self-employed, gig, and freelance work. Some Oregonians also work out of state; Oregon has the third highest number of remote workers after Washington D.C. and Colorado, according to Krumenauer. Additionally, 3% of Oregonians will quit their jobs at any given time, leaving openings behind. It’s creating trouble for employers, despite consumer spending remaining strong.

“In spring, Oregon employers reported difficulty filling three out of four job openings,” Krumenauer said.

Job gains in June were largest in construction, services, health care and social assistance, and leisure and hospitality. Government was the only major industry that shed a substantial number of jobs.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Alex Hasenstab