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. Educational Services employs less than three percent of all workers in Portland Metro but represents seven percent of all initial unemployment claims filed since the beginning of the economic crisis. During that period, more than 38,700 initial unemployment claims were filed by Educational Services workers in Oregon, including 16,700 in Portland Metro. (Table 1) This represents seventy-four percent of the 2019 workforce.
Educational services employment follows a yearly pattern with employment numbers dropping in the summer and increasing in the fall. During the past four years, Educational Services employment has decreased 18 percent between May and July. It then increased between 25 and 29 percent between August and September. Some of the decrease we are seeing now can be attributed to this annual cycle.
In September 2021, there were 2,800 fewer Educational Services jobs in the Portland MSA than there had been in September 2019. (Table 2) Job losses were spread throughout the industry. Of the three hundred seventy-five occupations included in Educational Services, two hundred eighty-four (75%) employed fewer workers in 2021 than in 2019. The largest occupations, Postsecondary Teachers, Coaches and Scots, Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education, and Teaching Assistants, experienced losses of sixteen percent, thirteen percent, three percent, and one percent respectively. (Table 3)
There are some positive signs. Employment in this sector has steadily risen since December 2020. The growth is expected to continue throughout the fall. More than a year after the pandemic began, demand for workers has returned. Between August and September, job postings for the top ten Educational Services occupations were up between one and one hundred eighteen percent from the same period during the previous year. (Table 4)
The educational services sector includes nonprofit and for-profit establishments that provide instruction and training, including schools, colleges, universities, and training centers. Also included are establishments what offer food and/or accommodation services to students.
In 2021, nearly twenty thousand people in Multnomah and Washington counties were employed in Education Services. The industry includes three hundred and seventy-five occupations. Many of the largest occupations are relatively unique to the sector and not often found elsewhere in the economy (e.g. teachers, coaches and scouts, teacher assistants). (Table 4)
Occupations in this sector tend to be middle wage. Seventy-three percent of jobs in the industry pay a median wage between the 25th and 75th percentile of the regional median wage. (Table 5)
Educational requirements range from less than a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree. Forty-four percent of the sector’s occupations, which account for over sixty percent of its current workforce, require a bachelor’s degree or higher. On the other end of the spectrum, fewer than 7 percent required no formal education. (Table 6)
White workers are overrepresented and Hispanic and Latino workers are underrepresented in Educational Services. Hispanic and Latino workers are eleven percent of the labor force but hold just seven percent of Educational Services jobs. (Table 8)
Prior to the pandemic, Portland Metro’s educational services sector was expected to expand by more almost 3,900 jobs between 2017 and 2027 for a growth rate of 17 percent; faster than the overall economy. Growth factors included an expanding population.