Oregon Economist Compares State Jobs Market to the Great Recession

Almost 40 percent of Oregon jobs lost early on due to COVID-19 have now bounced back, and the state’s unemployment rate has been falling slowly but surely, standing at 10.4 percent in July. Despite the way these numbers look, Oregon economist Josh Lehner has found that the overall data shows that the labor market is as bad as it was at the worst point of the Great Recession, Oregon Live reported.   

“The data is no longer apocalyptic, or nearly so. It’s just really bad,” Lehner said.   

In his analysis, Lehner found that lower-end jobs took the largest initial hit as a result of the pandemic as establishments that were a part of the service industry were quickly forced to shut down. More than one in four jobs paying less than $40,000 a year were gone by April.   

However, these jobs were also found to be the quickest to come back as the state began to reopen.   

On the other end of the spectrum where jobs are higher paying, fewer jobs were lost – only about 5 to 8 percent early on in the pandemic. Lehner asserted, however, that the numbers weren’t even that bad during the harsh recessions of 1973, 1990, and 2001.   

Opposite of low-paying jobs, higher income jobs have not shown signs of bouncing back. Those jobs that pay more than $62,000 a year were down by 5.5 percent in July compared to the beginning of the year. That’s a full percentage point worse than June.  

Lehner wrote that these findings could imply permanent damage to Oregon’s labor market, which will only add obstacles to the state’s stressful road to recovery.   

By Cara Nixon