Job Vacancies Soared to Nearly 100,000 in Oregon Last Year, Even With Higher Wages

The number of openings is up more than 50% from pre-pandemic levels.

Employers are struggling to hire in Oregon as the economy continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Oregon Employment Department that takes stock of the state’s job market.

There were about 97,000 vacant positions at any given time in 2021. That’s about 50% higher than in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, and twice the number of vacancies in 2016.

That’s a good news-bad news finding. The good news is, employers want more workers; the bad news is, they can’t find them.

“The rapid job recovery in 2021 showed up in several ways in the job vacancy survey,” the Employment Department said in the report released Feb. 23.

“It took longer to hire in 2021,” the agency said. “Employers reported more vacancies that had been open for 60 days or longer, accounting for 35% of 2021 vacancies, compared with 19% in 2019, just prior to the pandemic. The competitive hiring environment as the economy reopened after pandemic restrictions made it much more difficult for employers to fill their openings. Seven out of 10 vacancies were reported as difficult to fill, up from 57% in 2019.”

The sector with the most openings: health care and related fields in which workers often served on the front lines of the battle against the pandemic. Leisure, hospitality and retail employers also struggled to find new employees.

Here’s a rundown of where the jobs are:

As would be expected in a job market where the demand for workers exceeds the supply, average wages rose last year, jumping 9% from 2020.

One thing that hasn’t changed: Educational attainment correlates to substantially higher pay.

“Job vacancies with no education requirement averaged $15.83 per hour in 2021,” the report found.

“That rose to $17.17 for job vacancies requiring a high school diploma. Employers offered an average of $26.22 per hour for jobs with either some college, an associate degree, or a special certification beyond high school. Vacancies with bachelor’s or advanced degree requirements paid even more per hour, averaging $33.36.”