OREGON, USA (KGW) — Two years ago, the pandemic forced closures and layoffs. Many filed for unemployment for the first time, trying to make ends meet while dealing all the other COVID-related challenges.
Now, state economists say things are on the rebound in a big way. In fact, there are more job openings now than there are people to fill them.
“The economy right now is honestly in really good shape, mostly because households have income. They have money. They are trying to spend it,” explained Josh Lehner, an economist with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. “The biggest constraint in the economy right now is labor. It is harder to find workers today than it was two, three years ago.”
“Hiring has really been at full steam, particularly since summer when Oregon employers reported a record number of 107,000 job openings – just in the summer,” said Gail Krumenauer, an economist with the Oregon Employment Department.
She explained 2021 ended with more than 100,000 job openings in the state. Prior to the pandemic recession, the largest number of job openings they’d even seen was about 67,000 in summer 2017.
“What that means if you’re a job seeker is likely, if you’re looking for a job, you could get multiple job offers and have the opportunity to take the one that has the best combination of wages, benefits, perks and flexibility for you.”
With the current unemployment rate at 4.1%, things look great for people looking for a position, but more difficult for the businesses trying to find workers. The demand has driven up wages across the board, according to Lehner’s latest Economic Analysis report.
“One of the tools they have been using readily is raising wages to attract workers. The average wage in Oregon since the start of the pandemic is up 17%. On a full-time basis, that is equivalent to around $7,000 or $8,000 a year for the average Oregon worker – which is just a really big increase.”
Krumenauer said each industry has different difficulties in finding, and retaining, workers right now.
“For some of them, it’s just a lack of applicants. Employers are saying that they have had two few or no applicants for their jobs. In other industries, when we talk about healthcare – it’s a good example – they are more likely to require some sort of education beyond high school.”
For the rest of 2022, Lehner predicted a steady statewide wage increase, though a bit slower than what we saw during the pandemic.
“We do think that labor supply, the number of people actively looking for a job, will increase this year and next.”
Some of the industries with the most openings include leisure and hospitality, healthcare, and construction, as well as warehousing and transportation.