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Oregon’s economy is looking up and shining brighter

Statman photo

Economic Update

The Employment Department has released the unemployment rate and jobs numbers for July.   Oregon’s jobs recovery strengthened in July as employers added 20,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls.

  • Leisure and hospitality added 7,100 jobs in July. That means one out of every three jobs added was at Oregon’s restaurants, hotels, bars, and entertainment places.
  • Government added 12,800 jobs in July.

○      The government change was all about public education. School employment was already much lower than normal in July, and they had fewer layoffs.

○      To put this in perspective, we normally expect schools to let go of bus drivers and cafeteria workers for the summer. Because of the pandemic, many of these employees were already not working at schools recently.

○      That can make the lower numbers of layoffs in July look like a big job gain.

○      Schools and municipalities also added some jobs by hiring staff for summer school and recreation programs.

Oregon’s unemployment rate improved to 5.2% in July from 5.6% in June.

  • This was a significant drop in the unemployment rate, as unemployed people found jobs in July.

Employers continued to add jobs at a relatively fast pace.

  • Oregon has regained 7 out of 10 jobs lost in the spring of 2020.
  • Employers have added nearly 75,000 jobs so far this year. That’s more than in any previous full calendar year.
  • Oregon’s leisure and hospitality sector added as many jobs in the last seven months as it did in the five years (61 months) leading up to the pandemic.

Any employment effects we could be experiencing from the Delta variant could possibly first show in the August or September employment numbers. Oregon’s employment situation for August will be published Tuesday, Sept. 14.  

Strong hiring and declining unemployment continue to create an a difficult hiring situation for some employers. They’re competing with one another during a period of rapid hiring.

  • It has been difficult in recent months for employers to hire across all sectors of the economy.
  • One category of job openings that have tended to be among the most difficult to fill in recent years are those jobs requiring something more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree.
  • Examples of occupations that consistently have the most job openings in this category include heavy truck drivers, registered nurses, nursing assistants, dental assistants, and electricians.
  • Before the pandemic, in 2019, about 77% of jobs in occupations requiring something more than high school but less than a bachelor’s degree were difficult for employers to fill, compared with 57% of all jobs in Oregon.
  • Jobs requiring a license, certification, or associate degree have remained difficult to fill during the pandemic too. In 2020, about 71% of jobs with these education requirements were difficult for employers to fill, compared with 51% of all jobs in Oregon.

Employer Services

  • WorkSource Oregon partners and employees are dedicated to helping employers develop a strong workforce.
  • We offer staff-assisted recruitments and iMatchSkills® support for employers as they use our self-serve database to find qualified workers.
  • We organize virtual hiring events that bring employers and job seekers together safely.
  • We provide labor market information to help employers make good business decisions and be competitive in the current market.
  • We connect employers with resources, including COVID relief and grants offered by the local boards or small business development centers.
  • We use social media daily to network and promote our employers and their opportunities. Likewise, we attend events –  both virtual and in-person – to do the same.

Benefits Update

  • Since March 2020, the Employment Department has paid $10.6 billion to more than 610,000 people, covering 15.7 million weeks of benefits.
  • Last week we paid about $91 million to approximately 120,000 people.

Customer Service

  • Meeting customer needs in a timely manner continues to be a priority for us.
  • This includes answering customer questions as well as delivering benefits to people as quickly as we can.
  • Previously, we set very aggressive benchmarks that by July 1, 2021, we would answer 80% of calls within 15 minutes and respond to 90% of Contact Us inquiries within seven days.
  • We are very pleased to report that the Contact Us form process is working well.

○      We are answering questions and resolving most claim inquiries within a week.

○      From Aug. 1 through Aug. 7, we resolved 89% of Contact Us inquiries in seven calendar days or less and more than 95% of inquiries in 10 days or less.

○      In July, we resolved 83.5% of inquiries in seven days or less for a total of 32,448 inquiries.

○      We are on track to receive approximately the same number of customer inquiries in August.

  • Our call volume remains very high and we are answering more calls per day more quickly than we were this time last year.

○      Last week, we answered 43% of incoming calls in 15 minutes or less and 82% of all calls in an hour or less.

○      This reduction in wait times is good news, and it reflects our efforts to recruit more employees to our Contact Center team and to explore technology and processes improvements.

○      To avoid waiting on hold, we encourage people to review the information on our website, our strategies that work web page, and to use our Contact Us form

  • We welcome people looking for work to apply for openings at the Employment Department. This is a great place for people who are looking for a new career, enjoy a fast-paced work environment and want to make a difference in people’s lives.
  • Overall, we have made great progress towards our customer service goals, and that is thanks to our dedicated employees, who are key to providing even timelier customer service.

Upcoming Program Deadlines

More than 100,000 Oregonians are receiving unemployment benefits every week, so we want to highlight some upcoming deadlines for the federal programs ending in less than three weeks.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) temporary federal benefit programs expire Sept. 4, 2021. This means individuals receiving PUA will stop receiving benefit payments the week ending Sept. 4, 2021. Regular unemployment benefits are NOT affected.

PUA – Proof of Employment / Self-Employment

  • People who have received PUA benefits AND who have not turned in sufficient proof of employment or self-employment have until Sept. 4 to turn in this documentation.
  • Our PUA interactive tool can help people figure out what information they need to submit.
  • If sufficient PUA documentation is not submitted by Sept. 4, claimants will have an overpayment. That means they will need to pay back the PUA benefits they have received.

PUA – Retroactive filings

  • If someone has not already filed an initial PUA claim, and

○      They are unemployed; or

○      Working fewer hours than they did prior to the pandemic; or

○      Their business was closed or curtailed due to COVID-19 prior to Sept. 4, 2021;

They have 30 days after the expiration of the PUA program (Sept. 6) to file an initial claim and backdate it as far as Dec. 12, 2020.

  • If they already have a PUA claim and need to retroactively claim weeks, they may also have until Oct. 6, 2021, to do so. We encourage people to NOT wait to file their claim. If they are eligible, please file as soon as possible.

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Coast Tree

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