Pandemic Impact on Employment and Job Satisfaction

We asked Oregonians about their jobs before the pandemic, how they feel about those jobs now, if they’re still in the same jobs, and how their thinking about employment has changed.

From June 8th through 14th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including their thoughts about housing density regulations. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead.

This online survey consisted of 1400 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by the area of the state, gender, age, and education. Responses were analyzed and categorized to allow for a better understanding of trends in Oregonians’ values and beliefs. The survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.6% to ±2.6% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample size permits reliability.

Findings will include a citation of the relevant question, which can be referenced in the annotated questionnaire and tabs at the bottom of the page.

Employment and Satisfaction Before the Pandemic

  • Before the pandemic, slightly more than one-half of respondents (54%) were employed, either full-time (42%) or part-time (12%). Two in ten (21%) were retired and 11% were seeking employment opportunities. Men were more likely than women to have been employed full-time (50% vs. 34%) (Q15).
  • Among those who were employed prior to the pandemic, 88% said they were satisfied with their job (45% very and 43% somewhat). Overall job satisfaction was higher among those making more than $100K per year compared to those making less than $50K (93% vs. 83%) Job satisfaction also tended to increase with age (Q16).

Feelings Now: More Satisfied, Less Satisfied, or No Change

  • A plurality of respondents who were employed prior to the pandemic (47%) say that the pandemic has left them feeling no different about their job, regardless of whether they still hold the job they had pre-pandemic or have a new one. One-third (33%) say the pandemic has them feeling less satisfied about their job and 17% say they feel more satisfied. Nearly half of those ages 18-29 say they feel less satisfied (45%) about their job, by far the highest such response (Q17).
  • Respondents who said they are feeling more satisfied with their job cited the ability to work from home, a more flexible work schedule, and feeling fulfilled and able to contribute during a challenging time as reasons why. Below are several representative quotes (Q18):

I’m working from home full-time now, which has cut hours of commuting back and forth from my week and allows me more quality time with my family. I also have time and energy to do things that I enjoy now and have a better relationship with my family as a result.

Female, age 30-44, Benton County, white or Caucasian

I’m working for healthcare foundations helping raise funds for those in need. It’s always been rewarding but being in a pandemic really showed me how hard we work to help, and it’s made me incredibly proud of the work I do.

Male, 30-44, Multnomah County, white or Caucasian

I love working from home and now my work is moving to work from home permanently.

Female, age 18-29, Washington County, African

I have a greater appreciation for the work that I do and the affect is has on others.


Male, age 65-74, Deschutes County, white or Caucasian

  • Respondents who said they are feeling less satisfied with their job cited lack of job security, dislike of remote working, and insufficient support from their employer as reasons why. Below are several representative quotes (Q19):

Before the pandemic started, I was up for a promotion that came with a pay increase but when we started working from home that was postponed and I was ultimately let go along with some other coworkers.

Female, age 18-29, Coos County, white or Caucasian

The entire job changed. It became online work which just didn’t work with that specific position.

Non-binary or gender non-conforming female, age 18-29, Clackamas County, Slavic and white or Caucasian

They did not take care of their employees amidst so much change and uncertainty.

Female, age 30-44, Lane County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x

Our pay was cut. Benefits were taken away. We were treated like we should just be happy we get to keep our jobs.

Male, age 30-44, Deschutes County, white or Caucasian

Current Employment

  • 44% of respondents say they are currently employed, either full-time (34%) or part-time (10%). That is down 10 points from the 54% who said they were employed before the pandemic. Additionally, 16% say they are currently seeking employment opportunities. Same as prior to the pandemic, men are more likely than women to be employed full-time (41% vs. 28%) (Q15, Q20).
  • Among those who are currently employed, nearly eight in ten (76%) are in the same job they worked before the pandemic and two in ten (19%) are in a different job. Younger and lower income Oregonians are the groups most likely to be in a different job (Q21).
  • Respondents who said they are no longer in the same job they worked before the pandemic were provided the open-ended opportunity to describe why. Responses varied, but key themes included: getting laid off due to the pandemic, insufficient support from their employer, and leaving for a better opportunity and/or more pay. Below are several representative quotes (Q22):

Covid caused my previous employer to close their doors.

Male, age 18-29, Multnomah County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x

My old job was not considerate of family obligations due to pandemic.

Female, age 30-44, Linn County, Black or African American

I was laid off at the beginning of pandemic lockdowns. While I am making more money now, I’m not using the skills I have honed and enjoyed for more than 45 years.

Female, age 65-74, Deschutes County, white or Caucasian

I left a bad company and found someone that values my employment.

Female, age 18-29, Deschutes County, white or Caucasian

How Thinking About Employment has been Influenced by the Pandemic

  • Among respondents who are currently seeking employment opportunities, six in ten (61%) say the pandemic has influenced their thinking about the kind of opportunities to look for, while four in ten (39%) say it has not (Q23).
  • When asked to describe, in an open-ended format, how the pandemic has changed their thinking, respondents frequently said they felt a sense of desperation, a willingness to reevaluate their career path, and a desire to work from home. Below are several representative quotes (Q24):

At this point I am desperate enough for work that I am scraping together gas money by doing surveys and 3 months behind on paying my rent. The pandemic has vastly changed the way I look at what kinds of jobs I am willing to do. I will be a janitor if I have to, even though I am a highly skilled graphic designer with over 15 years of administrative experience. Times are desperate, and even finding cleaning jobs is next to impossible. Everyone is scared.

Female, age 45-54, Linn County, white or Caucasian

I need to reevaluate my career choice and path in life for it has become somewhat of a difficult endeavor for me to find employment.

Male, age 30-44, Multnomah County, white or Caucasian

The world has changed and so has my perspective about the future, now I’m looking for something that allows me to stay home as much as possible.

Male, age 30-44, Jackson County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x

I think I need to focus on something long-term and also my education because I don’t want to risk losing my job because of something like COVID happening again.

Female, age 18-29, Multnomah County, white or Caucasian

Demographic Trends

Identifying What Unites Us and Understanding What Divides Us

  • Oregonians of color and whites in this survey report similar employment situations and experiences. For example, 56% of Oregonians of color were employed before the pandemic compared to 54% of whites, with very little difference between full-time and part-time status (Q15).
  • Similarly, Oregonians of color and whites show identical levels of satisfaction with their jobs pre-pandemic, with 88% of both groups saying they were either very or somewhat satisfied (Q16).
  • However, there are some interesting differences between these groups. For example, when classifying their employment status now, whites are more likely to be retired than Oregonians of color (24% vs. 11%), and among those who are currently seeking employment opportunities, Oregonians of color are more likely than whites to say the pandemic has influenced their thinking about what kind of job opportunities to seek (70% vs. 59%) (Q20, Q23).
  • When it comes to geographic similarities, Urban and rural Oregonians report similar employment numbers before the pandemic (55% and 49%, respectively), however, urbanites were 10 points more likely to have been employed full-time (46% vs. 36%) (Q15).
  • Again, both groups showed similarly high levels of satisfaction with their pre-pandemic jobs (88% and 90% overall satisfaction, respectively) (Q16).
  • When it comes to those currently seeking employment opportunities, urbanites are significantly more likely than their rural counterparts to say the pandemic has influenced their thinking about what kind of job opportunities to seek (70% vs. 51%) (Q23).

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (www.oregonvbc.org).

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