New data from the Oregon Employment Department show the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the labor market. Since the beginning of the economic shutdown, workers in Portland Metro have filed more than 154,103 initial unemployment claims. This includes 12,780 educational services workers, representing 57 percent of the industry’s total workforce. The sector employs less than three percent of all workers in Portland Metro and represents eight percent of all initial unemployment claims filed since March 15, 2020.
These numbers do not represent all educational services workers who have lost their jobs. Faced with unprecedented demand, the unemployment insurance system currently has a backlog of claims. Not all workers are eligible for unemployment, including workers who did meet the threshold for hours worked during the past five quarters and undocumented immigrants.
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.
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.
Nearly 400 occupations are found within educational services. 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). Educational requirements range from less than a high school diploma to a Bachelor’s degree. Forty percent of the sector’s occupations, which account for over 50 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.
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.
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.