Summer 2021 Hiring among Oregon’s Private Employers

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By Anna Johnson
Senior Economic Analyst, Oregon Employment Department

Each quarter, the Oregon Employment Department surveys private employers from all industries and areas of the state to ask about the job vacancies they are actively trying to fill. Oregon businesses reported almost 107,000 vacancies in summer 2021. Total job openings increased 9% from the spring and 131% from summer 2020. This is the highest number of job vacancies seen in Oregon since the beginning of this survey in 2013. In spring 2021, the number of vacancies reached a peak of 97,800 and before that, the high was 66,600 vacancies in summer 2017. The record high level of job vacancies is not unique to Oregon right now. The number of private-sector job openings in the U.S. totaled 8,995,000 in April 2021 and 10,502,000 in July, beating the previous high seen in October 2018 (7,055,000) significantly.

The unemployed-to-vacancy ratio returned to pre-pandemic levels in spring and summer 2021, as the economy continued to recover from the COVID-19 recession. The number of unemployed has declined swiftly since surging in spring 2020 along with layoffs related to the pandemic, both in Oregon and across the United States. Nationally, unemployment increased by 17 million between January 2020 and April 2020, when the number of unemployed in the U.S. reached 23.1 million. The number of private-sector job openings in the U.S., as measured by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, fell by 2.3 million between January 2020 and April 2020, resulting in a ratio of more than five unemployed people for every job opening. As pandemic spikes and restrictions have eased, by July 2021 job openings in the U.S. rose above 10.5 million and the number of unemployed sank to 9.2 million, resulting in a ratio of 0.9 unemployed people per job opening.

In Oregon, the ratio shot even higher last spring as the number of unemployed surged. In spring 2020, there were 5.8 unemployed people for every job vacancy, similar to the ratio measured in early 2013 as the state was recovering from the Great Recession. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was very swift, rapidly spreading across the labor market and taking the economy essentially from full employment to deep recession in just a couple of months. By July 2020, the number of unemployed in Oregon had dropped by more than 46,300, leaving 4.2 unemployed Oregonians for every job vacancy in summer 2020. By July 2021, the number of unemployed Oregonians dropped more and the number of job vacancies rose significantly, leaving 1.0 unemployed persons per job opening, down from the 2.7 unemployed persons per job opening in winter 2021 and 1.3 in spring 2021.

Most openings in the summer were for full-time, permanent positions. Education beyond high school was required for 27% of summer vacancies. Health care and social assistance topped the industry list in summer, with 20,900 vacancies. This has been the sector with the most vacancies for 21 of the past 23 quarters. The leisure and hospitality industry had 16,700 vacancies, with 57% full-time positions and 7% requiring education beyond high school.

Hiring demand was widespread throughout industries and occupations. Four industries experienced record high vacancies: retail trade (12,000); manufacturing (12,000); professional, scientific, and technical services (7,200); and financial activities (5,200). A majority of employers in every industry reported their vacancies as difficult to fill. Overall, 78% of vacancies were considered difficult to fill, another record high for this series.

Employers reported vacancies in more than 270 different occupations. The occupations with the most vacancies in summer 2021 were retail salespersons (5,400 vacancies), restaurant cooks (4,800), personal care aides (4,100), truck drivers (2,800), and maids and housekeeping cleaners (2,600).

The average starting wage reported in summer was $19.99, a slight inflation-adjusted decrease from summer 2020. Total vacancies were up 131% from the level last summer. The number of vacancies offering a starting wage below $15 per hour increased 92%. The number of vacancies offering between $15 and $25 per hour more than doubled (+147%), as did vacancies offering above $25 per hour (+155%).

Summer vacancies were distributed across the state, with the Portland tri-county area accounting for about 38%. Vacancies increased over the year in every region of the state, with the largest gains in Southwestern Oregon and Lane County. 

More details about Oregon Job Vacancies are available on, on the publications page under Job Vacancy Survey.

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