Oregon sheds 25,500 jobs, unemployment rises for the first time since April

Oregon’s unemployment rate climbed to 6.4{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} in December, up from 6.0{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} the prior month. It’s the first increase in seven months as the state hunkered down amid a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections.

The state shed 25,500 jobs last month, according to data out Wednesday from the Oregon Employment Department, with the biggest losses in the leisure and hospitality sector. Gov. Kate Brown ordered restaurants and bars shut down indoor service in late November as the infection rate soared to unprecedented levels.

“December’s job losses reflect the devastation COVID-19 continues to inflict on the lives and livelihoods of Oregonians. Ten months into the pandemic, Oregon has regained just 37{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of the jobs lost in this recession,” said Gail Krumenauer, economist with the employment department.

Statewide, nearly 126,000 Oregonians were classified as unemployed in December. That’s up from 117,000 in November.

Full-service restaurants accounted for 17,600 of the Oregon jobs lost in November. The service sector has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. It’s a relatively low-paid sector, which makes workers especially vulnerable to economic hardship.

In December, Congress passed an extension of jobless benefits for self-employed workers and a new, weekly $300 bonus for people receiving unemployment assistance. That will help blunt the impact of the job losses, but those benefits expire in March unless Congress takes up another stimulus bill.

Oregon unemployment remained below the national rate (6.7{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1}) in December, and was less than half the state’s record 14.9{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} jobless rate in April. The state remains in a deep recession, though, and full recovery is unlikely until the pandemic is under control.

Vaccines have provided hope but the rollout has been slow in Oregon, as elsewhere in the country.

— Mike Rogoway | [email protected] | twitter: @rogoway

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