Oregon unemployment increases; officials cite COVID restrictions

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Washington state sees jobless rate increase from 5.7% to 7.1%

FILE – (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Department of Employment reported more than 25,000 jobs were lost throughout the state in December.

In the agency’s monthly report, data showed the 25,500 losses in jobs resulted in the state’s unemployment rate increasing from 6.0% in November to 6.4% last month.

The increase broke away from the national trend where unemployment over the past two months has remained at 6.7%.

“In December, Oregon lost 1.4% of nonfarm payroll employment while the U.S. shed 0.1%,” OED said in its report Wednesday. “Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment dropped by 25,500 jobs in December, following a revised gain of 2,100 jobs in November.”

December’s drop followed seven consecutive months of gains.

OED officials said the job losses reflect the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 safety measures, forcing many small businesses to cut back on staff. For instance, full-service restaurants cut 17,600 jobs in December, which was the largest drop of its component industries. 

To date, Oregon has regained only 37% of the jobs lost from the virus-sparked recession, according OED data.  

In Washington state, newly released employment data also painted a grim picture. Nearly 10,000 jobs were lost in December, resulting in an unemployment increase of 1.4% (5.7% in November to 7.1% in December). It is the first time the state reported losses since May of 2020 when nearly 45,000 jobs were eliminated.

Like with Oregon, officials in Washington cited COVID-19 as the culprit for increased job cuts.

“The renewed efforts taken to contain the spread of COVID deeply impacted industries that provide high-contact services,” said Paul Turek, economist for Washington’s Employment Security Department.. “Nowhere is that more apparent than in leisure and hospitality. Beyond that, employment in other industries is mostly holding up better.”

Washington saw the biggest job reduction in the leisure & hospitality industry (20,600). Professional & business services increased by 8,900 jobs.

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