Job growth in Portland Metro was steady throughout summer of 2021. By August, concern over the COVID-19 Delta Variant caused employment to plateau.

While employment has not reached the pre-pandemic peak, Portland Metro added 16,400 jobs between June 2020 and June 2021. The September 2021 unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in the past seventeen months.

The growth was not uniform across all economic sectors. A shift to working from home threatens the economic recovery of the Administrative and Waste Services sector. Since the economic crisis began, initial claims were processed for more than 52,100 Administrative and Waste Services workers in Oregon including 19,200 workers in Portland Metro. They represented seven percent of all claims filed and forty-one percent of the 2019 Administrative and Waste Services workforce in Portland Metro. (Table 1)

In September 2021, there were 700 fewer Administrative and Waste Services joins in Portland Metro than there had been in September 2019. (Table 2) Job losses were widespread. About half of the five hundred occupations in the sector experienced job loss between June 2019 and June 2021. Three of five largest occupations experienced losses: Janitors and Cleaners decreased seven percent, Customer Service Representative decreased nine percent, and Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand decreased seventeen percent. The others, Security Guards and Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers increased seven percent and four percent, respectively. (Table 3)

It’s unclear how many of the lost jobs will return. Just four of the fifteen largest occupations in Accommodations and Food Services (representing 19% of jobs), are at high risk of automation. The greater risk to jobs in this occupation is a permanent shift to working remotely. Fewer office workers could lead to fewer support workers for office buildings.

There are some positive signs. Employment in this sector has steadily risen since January 2021. The growth is expected to continue throughout the summer. More than a year after the pandemic began, demand for workers has returned. Between August and September 2021, job postings for nine of the top ten Administrative and Waste Services occupations were up between eleven and two hundred ninety-seven percent. (Table 3)

The Administrative and Waste Services sector includes businesses performing routine support activities for the day-to-day operations of other organizations. The establishments in this sector specialize in one or more of these support activities, providing services to clients in a variety of industries and, in some cases, to households. Activities include office administration, hiring and placing of personnel, document preparation and similar clerical services, solicitation, collection, security and surveillance services, cleaning, and waste disposal.

With 47,400 jobs and a payroll of just under $2.5 billion (2019), Administrative and Waste Services accounts for six percent of Portland Metro’s private-sector employment and four percent of payroll. Annual wages averaged $52,100, thirty percent less than the average across all industries.

The sector includes more than 500 occupations. The five largest occupation, janitors and cleaners, security guards, laborers, landscaping and groundskeeping, and customer service representatives, account for more than one third of the industry’s total workforce. (Table 4)

Most Administrative and Waste Services jobs are low wage. Slightly more than seventy percent of the industry’s jobs have median wages at or below the area’s median wage ($15.08/hr.). Just eleven percent of the industry’s jobs in Portland Metro have a median wage above the 75th percentile of the region’s median wage ($34.67/hr). (Table 5)

Nearly 80 percent of jobs in Administrative and Waste Services do not require formal education beyond a high school diploma. A handful of occupations (7%) require a post-secondary credential or an associate degree. Fifteen percent of Administrative and Waste Services jobs require a bachelor’s degree or more. (Table 6)

Black and African American and Hispanic or Latino workers are overrepresented in Administrative and Waste Services. While and Asian workers are unrepresented. Fifty-eight percent of workers in this industry are male. (Table 8)

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