Report: Low Oregon Unemployment Rate Makes Filling Jobs Difficult

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Portland, Ore. May 30, 2019 7:26 p.m.

According to a new report by the Oregon Employment Department, the state's near-historic low unemployment rate has resulted in employers having a difficult time filling positions.

Last year, private employers in Oregon had about 58,000 job vacancies. They reported it was difficult to fill more than half of those.

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Employers cited a variety of reasons — such as low wages, unfavorable working conditions and a lack of qualified candidates — for not being able to easily fill jobs.

Related: More Tariffs, More Problems: Trade War With China Hits Oregon Business

The Portland metro area had the most "difficult-to-fill" jobs, with more than 12,000. About 73% of all jobs east of the Cascades qualified as difficult to fill, a higher share than any other region. Both areas cited a lack of applicants as the top reason for vacant jobs.

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Employers pointed to a lack of "soft skills" such as ability to pass a drug screening, strong work ethic and reliable transportation as reasons for positions staying empty.

Employers in southwestern Oregon cited a lack of soft skills for 19% of the region's difficult-to-fill job vacancies, compared with 8% statewide.

Employers east of the Cascades were more likely to report low wages as the primary reason for their job vacancies than other regions, accounting for nearly one-third of all difficult-to-fill jobs.

Health care and social assistance jobs were the hardest to fill with more than 5,000 vacancies in Oregon.

A big deterring factor for applicants is the amount of education and experience required for jobs, which categorizes 79% of jobs that require more than five years of experience as difficult to fill, the report states.

“Many unfilled positions need experienced candidates to effectively fill vacant roles at Oregon’s businesses,” the report said. “Even so, in an economy at full employment, experience requirements narrow an already relatively small pool of job candidates.”

The report recommends that employers may be able to compete for labor by raising wages, lowering experience requirements or increasing recruitment efforts. It also recommends that employers potentially partner with local training or education programs in order to help train applicants who may not have necessary experience requirements.

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