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Oregon businesses in restaurant, entertainment industries hiring employees again

As coronavirus restrictions loosen and more people get vaccinated, entertainment venues, gyms, hotels and restaurants open up and add thousands of jobs.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Have you noticed more "We're hiring" signs around town?

As COVID restrictions loosen and businesses open back up, more businesses need workers again. But some places are having a tough time filling openings.

Oregon's unemployment rate is still high at 6.1%, and there are still fewer jobs than before the pandemic. But unemployment dropped a little bit over the past couple of months, with thousands of people going back to work. Data shows many industries that took the biggest losses are adding jobs.

For over a year, along the river in Sellwood, the usual sights and sounds of Oaks Park haven't been heard.

"At the height of season, we'd have somewhere between 250-300 employees. We're a major employer in Sellwood and we went down, at the low point, to I believe 12. Everyone else was laid off or furloughed," Oaks Amusement Park Marketing & Events Director Emily Mackay said.

Reopening its roller rink last month helped boost business.

"We're healthy, but not comfortable at this point," Mackay added, "And, definitely it's time to get back to it!"

They plan to reopen the amusement park very soon, and need to re-hire employees to operate rides, run games and serve food.

Oaks Park hopes to get about 200 employees back. But recruiting proves to be a struggle.

"Our first contact was everyone who was laid off was contacted to reapply. We’ve had tons of people do that, but other people got other jobs, moved away, family circumstances too, that kind of thing. So there are lots of positions available to fill," Mackay said.

They're not the only ones. As coronavirus restrictions loosened statewide and more people get vaccinated, entertainment venues, gyms, hotels and restaurants open up and add thousands of jobs.

"Across the state, what we're hearing from employers is they can't find enough people," Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association Director of Government Affairs Greg Astley said.

Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association blame the yo-yo'ing restrictions and some workers' unwillingness to work.

"We have quite a few people who've just left the industry. It became too difficult for them to figure out if one week to the next they were going to have a job, or have enough hours," Astley told KGW. "The other thing we're hearing, quite frankly, is with federal relief, the unemployment insurance, people are making enough money to stay home and not have to work."


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