Business leaders discuss Oregon labor shortage

According to an Oregon economist, almost twice as many baby boomers are leaving the workforce as people in their twenties.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Economists in Oregon say the state’s labor shortage isn’t related to the pandemic, but to something that’s been going on for years.

At a recent breakfast hosted by the Portland Business Alliance and the Portland Business Journal, the labor shortage in the Portland metro area was discussed by a panel of business leaders and an economist from Oregon.

Oregon’s unemployment rate in September was 3.8%, up slightly from August’s unemployment rate of 3.7%, a level that matches the US rate and the pre-pandemic rate in ‘Oregon.

So where have all the workers gone?

“They all got jobs,” Oregon economist Christian Kaylor told the group of business leaders.

Kaylor said the greater Portland metro area over the past 12 months has added 67,000 new jobs, “more jobs than the Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Columbus, Ohio, Milwaukee areas combined over the same period.” .

Despite job growth, these positions are not being filled as quickly as they once were. This is largely due to the lack of available employees.

Baby boomers, or those in their 60s and 60s, are leaving the workforce faster than those in their 20s entering it, at a rate of about 2 to 1.

“When they leave the workforce, they continue to consume, they always buy,” Kaylor said.

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Combine that with the younger generations not having as many children as before.

With this gap, businesses need to think outside the box and become competitive.

“You’re going to have to steal people from other industries,” said Jeff Detrick, vice president of Swire Coca-Cola. “Shamelessly, you’re going to have to recruit from other industries.

Detrick said his company began to focus on what he called “Training to Remember.”

“What we discovered was that we needed to create a career path for people who were in entry-level positions who wanted to grow and make more money,” Detrick said.

Anne Mersereau, vice president of human resources at Portland General Electric, said companies also need to rethink their hiring requirements.

“What are the other barriers to entry – and sometimes we can’t see them because we’re so used to having certain requirements for a job and not realizing that those requirements weed out a certain segment of the population,” he said. she declared. .

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Kaylor said to address the labor shortage, two things need to happen. First, businesses need to move towards more automation, which is currently happening with self-checkouts and self-ordering kiosks in restaurants.

“Grocery stores are doing more and more self-checkouts and I think that’s because they can’t find restaurant workers, they can’t find grocery checkouts,” Kaylor said.

Second, Kaylor said people need to start having more children. He said Portland was doing better than the national average, growing its senior population by 8% over the past 10 years, compared to 3% for the country.

“But over 10 years, that’s still not enough body for all of the economic demand, including the economic demand for goods and services from new retirees to meet this economic growth that we should see,” Kaylor said.

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