Oregon’s Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.4% in October

Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% in October, down from 4.7% in September.

This is an unusually low unemployment rate for Oregon. Since 1976, when comparable records began, through October 2016, Oregon’s unemployment rate was never as low as 4.4%. However, during the economic expansion just prior to the pandemic recession, Oregon’s unemployment rate was 4.4% or lower for the 41 consecutive months from November 2016 through March 2020. Oregon’s unemployment rate reached a record low of 3.3% in November and December 2019.

In Oregon, nonfarm payroll employment rose by 4,700 in October, following a revised gain of 700 jobs in September. In October, the private sector grew rapidly by adding 10,300 jobs, but that gain was diminished by a loss of 5,600 jobs in government. October’s total nonfarm employment gain was less than the average of 6,800 jobs added per month during the prior six months. 

Among the major industries, leisure and hospitality and professional and business services each added close to 3,000 jobs in October. Three other industries added more than 1,000 jobs: construction (+1,500 jobs), manufacturing (+1,400), and wholesale trade (+1,100). Government dropped by 5,600 jobs as schools still had low employment levels in October compared with two years prior.

During the past two months, hiring in local government fell well below seasonal norms, with losses totaling 8,000 jobs during September and October. This left job numbers below pre-pandemic figures.  Local government education employed 129,800 in October, which was 8,900 jobs below the October 2019 number. Similarly, local government excluding education employed 93,800 in October, which was 2,000 jobs fewer than two years prior.

Leisure and hospitality added 3,100 jobs in October, following a gain of 2,200 in September. Despite these gains, leisure and hospitality still accounts for the bulk of Oregon’s jobs not recovered since early 2020, with 30,000 jobs left to recover to reach the prior peak month of February 2020. The industry has regained 73% of jobs lost early in the pandemic.

Professional and technical services has grown rapidly throughout 2021, and the industry is now well above its pre-recession peak. This industry added 4,200 jobs during the past three months and 13,100 jobs since the low point in April 2020.