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Oregon’s job recovery is rising…but in slow motion

Oregon’s unemployment rate edged down to 6.0% in March, from 6.1% in February. For the past three months, Oregon’s unemployment rate has ticked down by a tenth of a point each month. During the past 11 months the pace of recovery in Oregon’s unemployment rate has mirrored the national experience. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 6.0% in March, from 6.2% in February.

Nonfarm payroll employment rose 20,100 jobs in March, following a gain of 15,300, as revised, in February. Two-thirds of all the jobs gained in March were in leisure and hospitality (+13,900 jobs). Three other major industries each added more than 1,000 jobs: manufacturing (+2,000 jobs); professional and business services (+1,300); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+1,100). Construction and private educational services each added 700 jobs. All other major industries performed close to their normal seasonal patterns.

The 20,100 total nonfarm jobs added in March was Oregon’s largest monthly gain since 38,300 jobs were added in July. March’s gain was the third monthly increase, following a large drop in December that was the result of temporary, heightened restrictions at the time.

In March, Oregon’s nonfarm payroll employment totaled 1,840,600, a drop of 132,400 jobs, or 6.7% from the pre-recession peak in February 2020. Oregon’s employment dropped to a low of 1,687,500 by April 2020. Since then, Oregon has recovered 153,100 jobs, or 54% of the jobs lost between February and April 2020.

Over the past year, the employment gyrations in leisure and hospitality have accounted for a large share of the swings in Oregon’s total employment. This broad industry includes restaurants, bars, coffee shops, hotels, golf courses, and fitness centers. It employed a peak of 216,300 jobs in February 2020 which was 11% of total nonfarm payroll employment. Then, within two months, leisure and hospitality cut over half its jobs. Since then, the industry recovered about half the drop, to employ 165,200 jobs by November. Then, hit by renewed COVID restrictions, the industry retrenched to 136,800 jobs in December. Since then, the industry added 25,900 jobs over the past three months and is close to its recent high point from last November, but is still far below its February 2020 peak.

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