Oregon Hospitality Workforce Sector Before the Pandemic

Leisure and hospitality employed about 18,500 people in 2019 before the pandemic hit. Most of this supersector’s employment falls into accommodations and food services, making hospitality the most prominent industry sector in Northwest Oregon.

Leisure and hospitality function mainly as a traded sector in Northwest Oregon, with Columbia County being the only exception. In Northwest Oregon, the leisure and hospitality sector lost more jobs (-8,700). It remained 2,600 jobs below its pre-pandemic level in March 2021.

However, leisure and hospitality are projected to add 1,290 jobs (+8%) from 2019 to 2029 and provide an unparalleled 30,000 occupational openings. Although the industry’s average wage was only $23,121 in 2019, this is partly due to its large share of part-time jobs. In addition, leisure and hospitality is such a large and varied sector that some of its more than 100 occupations pay well and are in high demand.

COVID-19 Impact on Oregon Hospitality Sector 

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on industries and employment in our area. Even though all counties in our area were impacted, five counties had different experiences during the ensuing recession.

Benton and Tillamook counties had job losses (16% and 15%, respectively) similar to the state. Lincoln and Clatsop counties, which have large retail, leisure, and hospitality sectors, suffered major closures and lost 25% and 22% of their nonfarm jobs. The job gaps remaining for the counties to return to their pre-recession employment level vary.

Columbia and Clatsop counties’ employment levels are 5% and 6% below their pre-recession levels. Columbia County avoided relatively significant job losses, and Clatsop County benefited from its proximity to Portland when the travel industry began to recover. Tillamook County had an 8% job gap and has a typical recovery. However, Benton and Lincoln’s counties had a 9% gap. This is due to the slower recovery of their essential leisure and hospitality industries in both cases. Since Benton County’s leisure and hospitality industry is nearly as large as Lincoln County’s industry, it’s often overlooked because it is heavily reliant on university students, not tourism.

Hospitality as an In-Demand Oregon Industry

Northwest Oregon Works prioritizes manufacturing, health care, leisure and hospitality, and maritime as in-demand industries. These four targeted industries provided approximately 40,000 jobs to the region before the pandemic, making them some of the largest in Northwest Oregon.

The Oregon Employment Department’s Occupational Prioritization for Training (OP4T) indicates that the top healthcare occupations such as medical assistants, registered nurses, and nursing assistants were in the top four occupations. Priority manufacturing occupations include electrical and electronics engineering technicians, machinists, and industrial machinery mechanics. Occupations in the maritime cluster such as mobile equipment mechanics, captains and mates, ships engineers, and welders are highly ranked.