Oregon’s unemployment rate continued a downward trend in September, dropping to 8%, compared to 8.5% in August. For the past few months, Oregon’s unemployment rate has closely tracked the national unemployment rate, which fell to 7.9% in September from 8.4% in August, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 5,100 jobs in September, following a revised gain of 16,200 jobs in August. The rate of job growth slowed over the past three months, with 39,000 jobs added in that time, following more rapid growth in May and June, when 83,100 jobs were added, the OED said. Despite the recent slowdown, Oregon employers added jobs in each of the past five months, and the state has recovered 45% of the jobs cut in March and April.

Over-the-month job gains in September were largest in leisure and hospitality, which added 2,600 jobs. Others included financial activities (1,600); health care and social assistance (1,600); retail trade (1,500); and information (1,200).

Conversely, two industries cut a substantial number of jobs in September: construction, which shed 2,600 jobs, and private educational services, which lost 1,400, the OED said.

Leisure and hospitality continues to be the industry most impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its employment bounced back substantially in May and June, but job gains have slowed over the past three months. Employment totaled 163,200 in September, which was down 53,400 jobs, or just under 25%, since its peak month of February, according to the OED.

Manufacturing lost a substantial number of jobs this spring and hasn’t rebounded. Employment stood at 180,000 jobs in September, which was close to its level of the past five months. Since September 2019, manufacturing has cut 18,100 jobs, with losses widespread throughout most component industries.

During that time, primary metals manufacturing dropped the most in terms of percentage, shedding 2,600 jobs, or 28%. Next in line was transportation equipment manufacturing, which cut 19%. Two other manufacturing industries dropped at least 10% — food manufacturing, which lost 4,200 jobs, or 14%; and electronic instrument manufacturing, which was down 600 jobs, or 11%, according to the OED. None of the published manufacturing industries added a substantial number of jobs over the past 12 months.

In contrast, two major industries rose closer to pre-pandemic employment levels. Retail trade rebounded rapidly, adding 4,700 jobs over the past two months. This left the industry down only 4,800 jobs, or 2.3%, since February. Certain retailers responded to strong demand lately, with food and beverage stores adding 900 jobs, or 2.1%, since last September.

Similarly, building material and garden supply stores added 900 jobs, or 5.4%, in that time, while general merchandise stores added 1,100 jobs or 2.7%, the OED said. Clearly consumer preferences and demands have shifted substantially, as reflected by job losses in several categories including clothing stores, which cut 8,100 jobs, or 51.6%, over the year, and miscellaneous store retailers, which shed 2,800 jobs, or 16.5%, the OED said.

Health care and social assistance added 2,300 jobs over the past two months and that sector was only 8,200 jobs, or 3.1%, below its recent high in February. Over the past 12 months, social assistance cut 4,900 jobs, or 8.4%. However, health care declined only 800 jobs in that time, the OED said.

The Douglas County unemployment numbers for September are scheduled to be released next week.

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