Workforce Trends Report Shows Tight Labor Market Despite Layoffs

Source: The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis
This slide from the state economist's office's workforce trends report shows an overall optimistic picture for Oregon's job market.

State economist breaks down what workforce trends mean for Oregon’s economic future.

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In its Feb. 2 report on Oregon workforce trends, presented to the House Committee on Economic Development and Small Business, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis had good news for Oregon’s economic prospects.

The state office reported:

  • More than 85% of Oregonians between the age of 25 and 54 with a bachelor’s degree or higher have a job
  • The state’s labor market is still tight, with 1.5 job openings for every jobseeker in the state as of November, and job vacancies at near record highs
  • While out-migration is increasing, in 2021 Oregon continued to see high net migration among people at all levels of educational attainment
  • Economic disparities based on wealth have continued to widen, but disparities based on age, educational attainment, gender, geographic location, or race or ethnicity have not

State economist Josh Lehner tells Oregon Business that broadly speaking, Oregon’s strong jobs numbers mirror, or in some cases exceed, the country’s overall strong jobs performance, Other outlets have noted Oregon has more open jobs than unemployed people, and that workers appear to be shying away from certain job sectors. Lehner says this is a function of very high labor demand, not a lack of supply. He also says the job market remains strong despite big layoffs in the tech sector, including Intel.

    “We’re at a record low number of initial claims for unemployment insurance,” Lehner says. “It’s possible those big tech announcements just haven’t hit yet, and the workers are months of severance pay. But I think the broader point would be that it’s concentrated in specific industries or specific firms and those announcements do not reflect the current state of the economy. Broadly speaking, unemployed workers are finding jobs at a very fast pace today.”

        The report says the number of self-employed people remains high, but the number of people holding multiple jobs is down.   Lehner says Oregon’s economic development will depend on how the state can add employees to fill those open jobs at growing companies. Lehner says the biggest component of this is activating Oregon’s 

latent workforce

       comprised of women who lack childcare options, and people of color denied access to education and training opportunities. 

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      “Moms bear the brunt of household duties and child rearing in our society. That’s the biggest component to fix from a labor perspective. It would require increased childcare opportunities and better affordable rates,” says Lehner, who adds the Oregon has activated more of its latent workforce than was active in 2019, but that the public and private sector still have a ways to go in making things easier for working moms. “It’s also going to require more flexible schedules on the part of employers to allow you to work around the school day.” As for talk of a possible recession, Lehner says the strong jobs numbers don’t necessarily mean Oregon is immune, and that the threat of recession is still concerning.

      Lehner says his next article will address Oregon’s recession chances in greater detail, but for now, Oregon’s economic fate could be tied to the Federal Reserve Bank, and what it chooses to do with interest rates. “In the fall, we had seen no slowdown at all in inflation, and the Federal Reserve was saying they were going to risk a recession and raise interest rates to cool the economy. Since then, we’ve seen three months in a row of low inflation. The Federal Reserve is starting to crack a little bit and say maybe we don’t really need to have a recession,” says Lehner. “I think things are better. I think the probability of no recession is rising. But it doesn’t it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods.”



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