Posted by: Josh Lehner | May 19, 2020

Recessions in Oregon (Graph of the Week)

This morning the April employment report for Oregon was released. As expected it was catastrophic. Between the revisions to March and the preliminary data for April, Oregon has lost 267,000 jobs (-14%) in the past two months. The unemployment rate spiked to a record 14.2%. Already this is the deepest recession on record in Oregon, with data going back to 1939.

This depressing version of the Graph of the Week compares employment losses in Oregon for each of the past 5 recessions. Tomorrow our office will release the latest economic and revenue quarterly forecast. I have been making similar types of charts in recent weeks based on our forecast and let me tell you something, the official data just hits differently. This chart is even more striking than I expected. It’s not made up, it’s not a forecast, it’s real.

As you can see, the current recession doesn’t look anything like past cycles. The sudden stop in the economy looks more like what happens to economic activity during a labor strike or in the aftermath of a natural disaster. However, unlike in those situations, our office does not expect activity to quickly return to pre-recession levels like it does when the labor strike is resolved or the rebuilding phase kicks in. Stay tuned tomorrow for more on the outlook.


  1. Josh, do you have also have underemployment data (e.g., U-6)?

    • Yes, U-6 spiked to 22.3% in April, on par with the U.S. U-6 at 22.8%. The vast majority of Oregon’s increase was unemployment, but there was a sizable jump in those part-time for economic reasons. The number of Oregonians working involuntary part-time doubled, and the increase accounted for 26% of the overall U-6 increase.

      Update: Also, in the weeks/months ahead I will bring back the Total Employment Gap concept and calculations but need to work on updating the labor force participation rate portions to include our new population forecast that is coming out tomorrow.

      • Thank you! One more question, do you have the unemployment information for the Greater Portland region (either MSA or tri-county large counties)?

      • It looks like the Employment Department is scheduled to release county data next Wednesday (5/27). That will also include MSA data.

  2. Of course, this one is distinct, as well, due to the federal help that most everyone has received in addition to unemployment claims. That somewhat mitigates the negative economic impact, although I read many have just saved the $$!

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