Hello, my name is Damon Remberg, and I am a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department.
I am joined by Dale Crominator, the state employment economist. We are here to discuss the new report from the Research Division on the re-employment of Oregon amid the pandemic recession.
The Jobs Recovery in Oregon
Oregon experienced a significant loss of 282,000 jobs in the spring of 2020. However, over the past two years, there has been a remarkable recovery. Oregon has managed to regain about 90% of the jobs lost during the pandemic recession. This recovery has been relatively fast compared to the recovery after the Great Recession, which took more than six years.
However, the recovery has been uneven across industries. Some sectors, such as construction, professional technical services, and transportation warehousing utilities, have surpassed their pre-pandemic employment levels. On the other hand, industries like leisure hospitality (including restaurants and hotels) and local government (including school districts) continue to lag behind due to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19-related layoffs.
Increase in Job Openings
It is interesting to note that across all sectors, there has been a surge in job openings. Oregon has consistently had over 100,000 job openings throughout the past year, with most major sectors reaching record levels of job openings. This unique labor market dynamic has created opportunities for individuals who were laid off during the pandemic recession, as they either return to their previous jobs or find new employment.
Examining Re-Employment Trends
Given these unique labor market conditions, we decided to analyze the data available at the Oregon Employment Department. We focused on the administrative records related to unemployment insurance claimants and employment wage records for individual workers. Our goal was to isolate the workers who filed unemployment claims during the early stages of the pandemic and explore their re-employment trends in 2022.
The most common outcome for workers impacted by the pandemic recession was that they returned to work with the same employer that laid them off. Over one-third of the claimants were re-employed with their previous employer by the beginning of 2022.
Additionally, approximately one out of eight workers took jobs with another employer in the same industry sector, indicating a comparable job switch. Around one in four workers transitioned to jobs in a completely different sector, suggesting a significant career shift. Finally, almost 30% of the claimants had no record in our administrative records by 2022.
Re-Employment Outcomes by Demographic
The re-employment outcomes differed based on demographic factors. While women initially faced disproportionate layoffs during the pandemic, their re-employment patterns have been relatively similar to men. However, age played a significant role. Older workers (55 and older) who were laid off were more likely to return to and stay with the same employer, potentially due to their proximity to retirement. On the other hand, younger workers (25 or younger) were more likely to switch employers and even change industry sectors to a greater extent.
Wage Gains and Unique Findings
The pandemic recession claimants defied historical norms in terms of wage outcomes. One year after their job separation, those who managed to find re-employment experienced a median wage gain of 7% (inflation-adjusted). After 18 months, their earnings increased by 13%, surpassing the wages before the layoff event. This is a substantial improvement compared to the average wage growth of 3% for all workers in Oregon during the same period. In contrast, workers laid off in the 2016 group experienced wage declines of 5% and still had a 1% wage decrease at 18 months after the job loss.
The rapid jobs recovery, combined with strong consumer demand, has led to record-level job openings and increased wages for all workers during the re-employment period. While layoffs typically result in wage losses, the unique conditions of the pandemic recession allowed those who lost their jobs to avoid further economic scarring when they resumed work.