COVID-19 Employment Crisis Continues in May

“Although Oregon experienced job gains due to the limited resumption of economic activity in May, over the past three months of the COVID-19 pandemic job losses have totaled 243,500. Historically, this loss is unprecedented and currently thousands of Oregonians are still suffering the economic realities of being unemployed,” said Anna Johnson, Senior Economic Analyst with the Oregon Employment Department.

Oregon’s unemployment rate declined to 14.2 percent in May from 14.9 percent, as revised, in April. Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 13.3 percent in May from 14.7 percent in April. Oregon’s April unemployment rate was the state’s highest since comparable records began in 1976.

Oregon total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 22,500 jobs in May, following a loss of 252,800 jobs in April. Thus, in May, employers added back nearly one in 10 jobs that were cut in April. Over-the-month job gains in May were largest in leisure and hospitality (+15,900 jobs); health care and social assistance (+8,400); construction (+5,600); and retail trade (+3,200). These gains were countered by substantial monthly losses in manufacturing (-4,900 jobs) and government (-9,900).

During May, statewide and county-specific guidelines for reopening businesses fostered increases in customer demand within leisure and hospitality. Full-service restaurants added back 8,500 jobs in May following steep job cuts in the prior two months. This industry employed 29,900 in May, which was still down more than half from its year-ago total of 72,700 jobs. Limited-service eating places, which includes fast-food establishments, saw its employment rebound by 5,400 in May to reach a total of 49,600. That was still nearly a third below its year-ago headcount of 71,700. Accommodation, which includes hotels and motels, added 1,600 jobs in May, but is still below half of its employment level of 26,500 reached in May 2019.

Additionally, some restrictions were lifted on elective and routine medical procedures. Ambulatory health care services responded with a gain of 8,300 jobs. Totaling 86,900 jobs in May, the industry was still 7,300 jobs below its May 2019 total.

On the down side, durable goods manufacturing cut 6,300 jobs in May. Much of these cuts were concentrated in primary metal manufacturing (-1,300 jobs) and in computer and electronic product manufacturing (-2,500 jobs). The portion of government with a big job change in May was local government education, which dealt with pandemic-induced school closures from kindergarten through universities, resulting in job cuts totaling 8,300.