Surge in Construction Jobs Helps Drive Down State Unemployment Rate

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Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in October from 7.9 percent, as revised, in September, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

For the past few months, Oregon’s unemployment rate has closely tracked the national unemployment rate which also fell to 6.9 percent in October from 7.9 percent in September.

Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 14,200 jobs in October, following a revised gain of 9,300 jobs in September. Over the past four months the rate of job growth has averaged 14,400 per month, following more rapid growth in May and June, when 74,500 jobs were added. Oregon employers added jobs in each of the past six months, and the state has recovered 46 percent of the jobs cut in March and April.

Over-the-month job gains in October were largest in construction (+6,100 jobs), professional and business services (+4,300), and leisure and hospitality (+4,300). Declines were largest in government (-7,400 jobs).

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 four months. Employment totaled 162,000 in October, which was down 54,300 jobs – 25 percent – since its peak month of February. Over the past 12 months, two of its component industries cut employment by more than a quarter. Since October 2019 arts, entertainment, and recreation is down by nearly half (-13,000 jobs, or -49 percent) and accommodation is down by nearly a third (-8,600 jobs, or -32 percent).

Most schools in Oregon were impacted by a combination of distance learning and declining enrollment this autumn, which resulted in job cuts at all levels of education. When comparing October 2020 with October 2019, all of education — from grade schools to colleges — have experienced job reductions. Local government education reduced employment to 118,700 in October from 139,900 in October 2019 (-21,200 jobs, or -15 percent). This industry includes local K-12 schools, community colleges and the Oregon University System. Private education, which includes private grade schools and private universities, cut 7,400 jobs, or 20 percent, since October 2019.

Two major industries expanded since October 2019. Construction surged by 6,100 jobs over the month in October and is up 700 jobs since October 2019, putting it close to its record levels during late 2019 through March 2020. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities added 1,200 jobs in October and grew fast for most of the past few years, adding 5,800 jobs over the past 12 months. The industry benefitted from rapid demand growth in online shopping and the resulting expansion of warehousing and distribution.

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