Characteristics of the Covered Unemployed in May 2020 in Jackson and Josephine Counties

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by Polly Farrimond, Workforce Analyst, for Employment in Oregon

In May 2020, Jackson County’s unemployment rate was 14.4 percent, up 9.8 percentage points from last year. Josephine County’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent, up 8.7 percentage points over last year. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted residents at record levels reflecting the recession that has impacted the entire United States. On May 15, 2020 Jackson and Josephine County were approved to enter phase one reopening. Phase one allowed restaurants and bars, personal services, and gyms to resume operations. Some establishments in these areas did reopen but some have continued to be closed. On June 5, 2020 phase two was approved for the Rogue Valley. This allowed for some non-essential travel and smaller groups to resume meeting. As of July 1, 2020, the hardest hit accommodation and food services category continues to see temporarily closed businesses and others have closed permanently.

Accommodation and food services businesses have experienced the biggest impact of this COVID-19 crisis. The retail trade industry followed food service in the biggest decline, with many businesses having to close their doors to the public until the reopening phases began. Health care and social assistance rounded out the top three of the industries to sustain a major hit during the pandemic. Although you might not expect health care to be heavily affected during a health crisis, many health related businesses that are not serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response such as dentist offices, medical labs, and surgery centers were closed for business as elective and non-emergency procedures were cancelled. Beginning May 1, elective procedures were allowed across the state and many have been trying to serve the backlog of patients.

When looking at the education levels of the workers receiving unemployment insurance in Jackson and Josephine County, it is clear that the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic were the workers with a high school degree or less. This is likely a reflection of the industries most impacted by COVID-19 related closures, such as leisure and hospitality, construction, retail, and manufacturing, which have a higher concentration of workers with a high school diploma or less.

The age distribution of the unemployment insurance claimants is fairly typical of the labor force more broadly, with a few exceptions. Those ages 25 to 34 have been particularly hard hit. This age group accounts for a larger share of the jobs in industries that were most impacted by COVID-19 related closures. It could also be that this group represents workers earlier in their career and they were more susceptible to layoffs than higher-level managers or supervisors. The youngest workers (ages 16 to 19) seem to be the least impacted. However, this is likely a reflection of lack of unemployment insurance coverage for these young workers who have fewer covered hours in the system.

To stay current on the local impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce in Jackson and Josephine counties, you can find information on QualityInfo site which has been redesigned. This site contains articles and downloadable data for the Rogue Valley. 

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