Oregon unemployment rate improved in August, now below national figure

By Rob Manning (OPB)
Sept. 15, 2020 8:58 p.m. Updated: Sept. 15, 2020 11:07 p.m.

Oregon’s unemployment rate fell in August to 7.7% — a significant improvement from 10.4% reported for July. The state’s rate went up faster than the national average, which went from 10.2% to 8.4%.

But officials from the Oregon Employment Department note that these are job numbers from last month, so they don’t reflect the widespread disruption from wildfires in September. And while August’s jobs numbers improved and lead the nation as a whole, it’s still significantly worse than the unemployment rate a year ago, when it was just 3.6%.


OED reports that the biggest job gains were in Oregon’s service industry, including the hospitality and retail sectors. Those areas combined to add 7,500 jobs from July to August. Construction and government also added a total of 6,000 jobs.

But officials are tempering those gains with a reminder that several sectors were still struggling: “In August, the following industries remained near their low point for the year: manufacturing; government; information; and professional and business services.”

And August saw some parts of the economy retract, including trade, health care and social assistance, which lost a combined 2,800 jobs since July.

The same day that Oregon shared positive news on the employment front, state officials announced layoffs coming at the end of this month at the state’s largest private university. Officials said Tuesday that the food service provider at the University of Portland, Bon Appetit, is eliminating 224 jobs from the North Portland campus at the end of this month.

The letter from Bon Appetit pointed to “unforeseen business circumstances related to COVID-19 and resulting physical calamity.” The letter from Bon Appetit’s regional HR manager, Theresa Segal, was sent to state and local officials on Sept. 1. UP had previously announced it would open fall term Aug. 24, “with nearly all classes held exclusively online."