SALEM — Oregon added 13,900 jobs last month, nearly twice as many as it gained in January, but the jobless rate remains stubbornly high.
Unemployment was 6.1% in February, according to new data out Tuesday, March 16, from the Oregon Employment Department. That’s on par with the national rate and down just one-tenth of a percentage point from January.
While the jobless rate has fallen for 10 straight months, the rate of decline has slowed to a crawl. Oregon remains down more than 150,000 jobs from February 2020. Oregon has regained a little less than half of the jobs it lost in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month’s job gains were almost entirely in the leisure and hospitality sector. Restaurants and bars began reopening to indoor service last month in many of Oregon’s largest counties after a three-month shutdown triggered by a steep rise in coronavirus infections and deaths.
Oregon relaxed those rules in February as the outbreak faded. The reopenings in Oregon’s largest county didn’t get underway until midway through the month, though, and their rebound may have been hindered somewhat by a snow and ice storm that hit the Portland area around Valentine’s Day.
With business restrictions further relaxed this month, and COVID-19 hospitalizations continuing to trend downward, that offers some hope for greater improvement in March.
Despite the pandemic recession — Oregon’s deepest downturn on record — some segments of the economy have added jobs over the past year.
Transportation and warehousing is up 7.2%, 5,300 jobs, reflecting the shift to online shopping during the pandemic.
Professional services are up 0.6% and architectural and engineering services are up 4.0%. Workers in those segments can generally do their jobs remotely, meaning they were somewhat insulated by the pandemic’s direct effects.
Oregon listed 142,000 workers as unemployed last month, nearly double the number who were unemployed in February 2020. In addition, more than 100,000 Oregonians sought benefits last month through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, temporary aid Congress established at the outset of the pandemic.
Congress extended that program, and other expanded benefits, into September in a new, $1.9 trillion relief package passed last week. But the employment department has warned that thousands of Oregonians may have a lapse in benefits while the agency adjusts its systems to accommodate the change.
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