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Regional Interests

For unemployed Oregonians, permanent job losses now outnumber temporary layoffs

April marked the first time in the pandemic that Oregonians with permanent job losses outnumbered those experiencing temporary layoffs, according to new data from the Oregon Employment Department.

The figures reflect how the dynamics of unemployment have changed in the state as the pandemic grinds on.

“Back in the height of the pandemic, last April, nine out of 10 layoffs were temporary,” said state employment economist Gail Krumenauer, “which makes sense, because that was in the initial widespread shutdowns for public health and safety.”

One year later, a smaller percentage of people are waiting to be recalled after temporary shutdowns. More people have lost their jobs for good.

The new finding was included in April’s unemployment report, which showed the state’s jobless rate remained parked at 6.0% last month. That’s a far cry from April 2020, when unemployment soared past 13%.

But after several months of larger gains, the state added only 2,200 jobs last month — mainly in government and leisure and hospitality businesses such as restaurants and bars.

Meanwhile, the ranks of the long-term unemployed continued to increase.

Last month, long-term unemployment reached its highest point in nine years, Krumenauer said, with roughly 71,000 Oregonians out of work for six months or longer.

The last time long-term unemployment was that bad in Oregon was at the end of 2011, during the slow recovery from the Great Recession.

A jump in long-term unemployment is often a grim benchmark. It’s hard on people who are out of work. It can also be more difficult for people who have been out of work a long time to get new jobs.

Krumenauer is watching to see if the state’s recovery from the coronavirus recession could be fast enough to avoid that outcome. Coming out of the Great Recession, she said, it took five years for unemployment to drop below the state’s long-run average jobless rate.

“Coming out of the pandemic, that has happened in less than a year,” she said.

Her hope is that a tighter labor market could provide more opportunities to people experiencing long-term unemployment.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misstated the length of time it took Oregon to return to its long-run average unemployment rate as the state emerged from the Great Recession. It took five years for unemployment to return to that long-run average rate. OPB regrets the error.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting