Columbia County is currently classified Moderate Risk under the state’s pandemic county classifications. That means employers face less restrictions, but at the same time some business operators say they don’t have enough employees to fully open their operations.
Oregon Employment Department Regional Economist Eric Knoder said the pandemic created significant job losses last spring, but now the local and state economies are recovering.
“It seems likely that many of the people who lost jobs during the pandemic recession (job losses peaked in April 2020) have found jobs,” he said. Payroll employment in Columbia County increased by 460 from April to January, by 2,510 in Clatsop, and by 500 in Tillamook. It is likely that many of those new jobs were filled by people who had just lost them.”
Knoder has complied a detailed report showing that Northwest Oregon had approximately 2,255 job vacancies in the private sector on an average day in 2020. This was a decrease from an average of 3,357 vacancies in 2019.
The industry with the most vacancies was health care and social assistance; it had an average of 528 job vacancies on any given day. These estimates for job vacancies came from a survey of 1,400 private-sector employers with two or more employees in Northwest Oregon during the year.
The 2,255 vacancies are estimated from point-in-time surveys. The survey is mailed to employers each quarter and respondents are asked about vacancies they have at that time. The responses from the four quarterly surveys were combined to make an estimate of the average number of vacancies during the year.
To put the average of 528 vacancies in health care and social assistance in more context, Knoder said the industry in Northwest Oregon had an estimated average annual employment of 13,227 in 2019, the most recent full year of data. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 1,793 people were hired in the industry in 2019, the most recent full year of data, an average of nearly five hires per day.
Two other large industries in Northwest Oregon were also near the top of the list for having the most job vacancies. Leisure and hospitality and retail took the number two and number three positions. Leisure and hospitality averaged 380 openings throughout 2020. Retail trade averaged 287 openings. These industries are among the largest in Northwest Oregon, so it’s no surprise that they had the most job vacancies in 2020, Knoder said.
The survey also revealed that the occupations with the most vacancies were maids and housekeepers (mostly in lodging); heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers; nursing assistants; and meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers (think seafood processing).
Most job vacancies were for relatively low-paying positions. Employers were offering $15 or less per hour for 47% of all vacancies. Only 13% of vacancies were offering $25 per hour or more.
Fully 66% of job vacancies had either no educational requirement at all or required only a high school diploma. These vacancies also tended to offer lower pay.
Vacancies that required postsecondary training showed the importance of getting some education or training beyond high school. The average wage for vacancies requiring postsecondary training was nearly $25 per hour, essentially all were permanent positions, and 82% were for full-time jobs.
According to Knoder, the 2020 vacancy survey reinforces other research that shows that Northwest Oregon job seekers can benefit by getting additional education and training at local community colleges, Jobs Corps Centers, and through apprenticeships.
To find out what local jobs are currently available, visit the Oregon Employment Department St. Helens website at: oregon.gov/EMPLOY/jobseekers/Pages/Find-a-Job.aspx.