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Leisure and hospitality expected to be the fastest growing industry in Oregon

Despite the ongoing worker shortage, the leisure and hospitality industry is expected to grow by more than 70,000 jobs in the next decade.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It's been a tough year for Oregon restaurants and businesses that cater to tourists, but there's some good news to report, at least in the long term.

 According to projections released by the Oregon Employment Department (OED) this week, the leisure and hospitality industry is expected to be the fastest-growing industry in the state, adding more than 70,000 jobs in the next decade.

The difficult part will be hiring people to fill all those roles during an ongoing worker shortage, according to OED economist Felicia Bechtoldt.

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"We saw that leisure and hospitality with other sectors have been hit hard during the pandemic and this is going to be a challenge for employers," she said.

Anna Banana's Coffee House in Northwest Portland almost had to close last year, according to owner Rend Klemp. His business is recovering now, and unlike some businesses that are struggling to find employees, he's had a lot of applicants recently —  but he said he's still skeptical about hiring.

"The business isn't there still, we have supply costs issues, driving up the price of supplies and pressure to keep our prices down on the consumer," Klemp said.

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The OED said 10 out of the 20 fastest growing jobs are in the leisure and hospitality industry, including bartenders, chefs and waitresses. As people start to feel more comfortable returning to normal life, the demand will only get higher. 

Klemp expressed skepticism about the projections, however, and said the industry will never be the same after the pandemic.

"To say we are going to be a fast growing sector in the economy, I think whoever is saying that is relying on the old ways, not realizing we are in a totally different new world," he said.