Kaiser Permanente building
Kaiser Permanente operates private hospitals, clinics and a research center in the Portland area and clinics elsewhere. They are experiencing severe staffing shortages. (Photo by Kaiser Permanente)

The Oregon Employment Department on Tuesday reported a record number of jobs in construction, wholesale trade and professional and business service sectors, but continued declines in employment at private hospitals, residential care facilities and in education. 

The monthly report is a snapshot, based on surveys sent to 7,000 businesses across the state that self-report their employment figures.  

According to the report, Oregon businesses added 10,000 new jobs in November, the bulk coming from trade, transportation and utilities. 

In the construction sector, wholesale trade and in the sector of professional and business services – encompassing everyone from lawyers, engineers, architects to company management – employment has reached all-time highs since the state began tracking the numbers in the 1990s, according to Gail Krumenauer, an economist at the Employment Department. 

The number of people working in construction in Oregon in November according to the report was 113,800, in trade there were 77,400 employees and 257,500 working in professional and business services. 

Overall, the state’s unemployment rate is declining towards pre-pandemic levels.

Unemployment in November was 4.2% down from 4.4% in October and down from 6.6% a year ago.

As of November, about 73,000 Oregonians were unemployed, according to the Employment Department, down from about 130,000 in November of 2020. 

Hospitals, nursing and residential care

Despite the state’s overall gains, private hospitals continued to lose staff month over month and year over year. 

Krumenauer said these mirror nationwide trends. Across the U.S., more than 425,000 jobs in nursing and residential care facilities have been lost in the last two years, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Oregon, private hospitals have lost 1,500 employees in the past year, and more than a quarter of those losses took place just between October and November of this year, according to the report. Oregon’s private hospitals employ about 57,400 people, according to the employment department.

Among private nursing and residential care workers, more than 5,000 jobs have been lost since November of last year.

But bright spots are forming in parts of the health care sector, with growth in “ambulatory health care” workers like doctors, dentists, chiropractors and dialysis technicians, among others. 

Jobs in social assistance, like emergency food, housing and relief services, child care services and vocational rehabilitation are back to pre-pandemic levels, having grown by more than 5,000 jobs in the last year.

Education

Between August and November, local government hiring – which encompasses everything from county and city government administrators, employment by tribes, government-run hospitals, public schools, community colleges and public universities – fell 7,400 jobs short of typical levels, according to Krumenauer. Most of that was from public education, including community colleges. 

According to a report Krumenauer put together for the Department of Education, community colleges are down about 3,000 jobs from pre-pandemic levels. Community college enrollments are down by more than 18,000 students from pre-pandemic levels, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

Despite small job gains in the private education sector during the last month, that still left Oregon with 3,900 fewer jobs in this category compared to a year ago.

Among private colleges, employment is down 1,200 since last year, much of that having to do with the closing of Concordia University, a private religious school in Portland that shuttered in February 2020. 

Employment in private fine arts schools, language schools and exam prep schools is down about 1,400 jobs from pre-pandemic levels.


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