Who are the unemployed in Oregon? — Data analysis

by Mary Wood
Oregon Employment Department,

The “Great Recession” affected most Oregon business to some extent: a loss of revenues, restricted access to credit, or even bankruptcy. Many employers laid off workers either permanently or temporarily because of the economic conditions. Most of these workers were eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

Who is (and Isn’t) a UI Benefit Recipient

The number of people receiving UI benefits are counted from administrative files of those who qualified for unemployment insurance benefits. From July through September 2009, when an estimated 223,900 Oregonians were unemployed on average, 167,500 people received UI benefits, or about 75 percent of the unemployed. Not all of the unemployed are eligible for UI benefits. The UI laws are very complicated, but generally workers qualify for benefits if they worked enough hours and earned enough income in the past year(s) for an insured employer. Additionally, they must be unemployed through no fault of their own.

The roughly 25 percent of the unemployed who do not receive UI benefits include those with too little work or earnings to qualify, those who quit or lost their job through some fault of their own, people who have never worked (e.g., young teens and recent graduates), people returning to the workforce after an absence, and those who worked for themselves or in jobs that were not covered by unemployment insurance – such as many agricultural jobs.

Unemployment Insurance Data

This article discusses demographic characteristics of UI claimants based on data from 2006 through 2009. The method for gathering data has not changed over the recession. However, changes in UI eligibility influences who is included in the data. Extension programs allow people who exhausted their UI benefits to claim additional weeks of benefits. In 2008, the Emergency Unemployment Benefits program was enacted and continues to provide benefits to long-term unemployed workers. In addition, Extended Benefits became available in late 2008, and Oregon Emergency Benefits were available in the last quarter of 2009. Smaller changes in eligibility and benefit availability have occurred over the course of the recession from legislative or court action.

Who Received a UI Benefit in 2009?

In 2009, a record number of 366,106 people received over 2.7 billion dollars in unemployment insurance benefits. This was more than 1.5 times the number that received benefits in 2008.

According to the Current Population Survey, men make up between 52 percent and 54 percent of the Oregon labor force. However, in 2009, 64 percent of UI recipients were male. The percentage of male recipients has risen each year since 2006 when males represented only 60 percent of recipients. Men are over represented as UI benefit recipients because they are more likely to work in industries which are seasonal, such as construction, or at a manufacturing plant that is shut down for maintenance.

The growth in the percentage share of men receiving benefits reflects the deep employment cuts in these male-dominated industries. In 2009, the percentage share of recipients whose last major employment was in the construction or manufacturing industry was 15 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Recipients from female-dominated industries such as health care and social assistance, or accommodation and food service accounted for only 6 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

As mentioned earlier, a person must have sufficient recent work experience to have earned enough and worked enough hours to meet UI eligibility requirements. Additionally there are restrictions on school attendance while receiving UI benefits. These eligibility criteria make the representation of those under 20 years old lower in the insured unemployment statistics than for the overall unemployment statistics. In 2009, as in every year previous, fewer than 1 percent of UI recipients were under the age of 20.

The share of UI recipients in their 30’s and 40’s decreased since 2006, while the share for those 60 and over increased from around 1 percent in 2006, to 9 percent in 2009.

During the recession, the percentage share of UI recipients with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased modestly. Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher comprised 12 percent of UI recipients in 2006; by 2009 this percentage had grown to 14 percent. Similarly, the group that had only some post-secondary coursework moved from 8 to 9 percent. The share with an associate’s degree dropped nearly 1 percentage point, though it stayed in the 11 percent range.

UI recipients are asked to voluntarily disclose their race when completing their application for benefits. However, one-half of the UI recipients choose not to report their race, making the data on the race of UI recipients unreliable.

The Long-term Unemployed

Most UI recipients qualify for 26 weeks of benefits referred to as “regular” benefits. Though some recipients qualify for fewer than 26 weeks, this analysis assumes that by exhausting regular benefits they are long-term unemployed (usually defined as unemployed for more than six months or 27 weeks.) There were almost 26,000 people who exhausted their regular benefits prior to 2009, and in 2009 were only receiving UI extension benefits. In addition to these, 26,000 there were about 125,000 that received both regular and extension benefits.

Most of those who received only extended benefits in 2009 were unemployed for more than a year. The demographics of this group tended to be older and more often female than the group overall. Of these recipients, 42 percent were female and 14 percent were over 55 years old. The education levels for this group were similar to those of all recipients.

Did You Know That….

More than $150 million in unemployment insurance benefits were paid to claimants in Deschutes County last year?

More than 16,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance were filed in Jackson County in 2009?

To find more information on Oregon’s unemployment insurance program, visit www.WorkingInOregon.org, go to the Unemployment link and locate UI Statewide Statistics.

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