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For the first time since March 2020, Oregon's unemployment rate falls below 5%

KATU Portland logo KATU Portland 6 days ago KATU Staff
For the first time since March 2020, Oregon's unemployment rate falls below 5%
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For the first time since March 2020, Oregon’s unemployment rate has dropped below 5%.

According to the Oregon Employment Department, the state’s unemployment rate went from 5.2% in July, to 4.9% in August.

JULY'S UPDATE| Oregon unemployment rate lowers to 5.2%, jobs in leisure and hospitality expands greatly

Oregon added 7,900 jobs in August, officials said.

"The way that this recovery is happening doesn’t look like anything we have seen before," said Gail Krumenauer, state employment economist with the Oregon Employment Department. "We are 18 months past the initial downturn in the COVID recession and we have regained nearly three out of four jobs that were lost. So just the speed of the recovery has been immense. We have gone from the highest unemployment the state has ever had at 13.2%  in April 2020, to now down below 5% in August 2021."

Job gains in August were largest in government, wholesale trade, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services, according to the Oregon Employment Department. Only one major industry, retail trade, cut jobs.

Caption: For the first time since March 2020, Oregon's unemployment rate falls below 5% (KATU - 6 PM)

For business owners in the growing industries, this is a welcome change after an extremely difficult year. The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, ORLA, says a lot more applicants are coming through their doors, but they're still concerned. 

"We are only one variant away or one mandate away from losing those gains that we fought so diligently for," said Tom Perrick, government affairs coordinator for ORLA. "Definitely not breathing sighs of relief but cautiously optimistic. I think it is still a yellow flag out for caution."

Meanwhile, employment in health care and social assistance has been relatively flat all year, according to the employment department.

The employment department also reported Oregon has recovered 204,700 jobs, or 72% of the jobs lost during the COVID-19-induced recession. 

Officials say the leisure and hospitality industry has regained 60% of jobs lost during the pandemic.

Nationwide, the U.S. unemployment rate also dropped to 5.2% in August compared to 5.4% in July.

The Oregon Employment Office believes the state could be back to the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.6% by summer 2022. But that all depends on how the rest of the pandemic plays out. 

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