The signs of a labor shortage are everywhere around Portland right now, from the classified ad posts offering bonuses to would-be school bus drivers and line cooks to the pharmacies and doctors’ offices announcing early closures due to lack of staffing.
In other words, it’s a job seeker’s market. Everyone else just lives here.
Maybe you’re one of the many Oregonians who joined the ranks of the Great Resignation, turning in your notice in favor of seeking a job that sparked more joy, or maybe you’re just looking for the next gig to pay the bills? We got curious on your behalf and wanted to find out more about where the jobs are.
The Oregon Employment Department compiles a handy Help Wanted “job vacancy survey.” Its most recent results are from this summer, and it tells us Oregon employers had more than 100,000 jobs that went unfilled in the summer—a 131 percent increase from summer 2020. Finding candidates for those jobs was tough (though at least one agency, the Portland Police Bureau, reports that they’ve got more candidates than they can process, with 1,000 people submitting applications since January 2021). Nearly 80 percent of employers surveyed reported having trouble hiring people to fill open jobs last summer.
We’re going to go out on a limb and say that part of the problem could be salaries. The average offered starting wage this summer was $19.99, which is a slight bump from the previous summer—until you factor in inflation. Then it’s actually a slight decrease from 2020, even in this highly competitive market. Jobs that pay upward of $30 an hour are going wanting, with more than 10,000 of them vacant in summer 2021.
So, who’s hiring? According to the state employment department, there’s the greatest demand in health care and “social assistance” industries, which means nursing home and private elder care support, among other jobs, with more than 20,000 vacancies in summer 2021. Leisure and hospitality—one of the first industries to engineer mass layoffs during the first pandemic-related lockdowns of spring 2020, is also struggling to fill vacancies now that the tourism sector is ramping back up, as are retail and manufacturing.
One important note: This Employment Department data covers only private sector companies. The public sector is dealing with its own well-documented shortages, including among substitute teachers.