Oregon’s Breweries and Bars: Businesses of all stripes struggled in 2020. Our participation in the economy has been drastically impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, growth rates for breweries and brewpubs had already been slowing, but the loss of customers and staff due to the cancellation of in-person meals was devastating.
In the summer of 2019, roughly 9,090 people were employed in Oregon’s breweries. Any place where beer is brewed is considered a brewery. Some of these establishments are breweries that package and ship their beer to bars and restaurants. On the other hand, many of the state’s breweries are brewpubs, which produce and serve beer in an atmosphere more like a restaurant.
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Oregon’s Breweries and Bars Are Affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic
The devastating effects of the pandemic weren’t fully felt until April 2020, when a whopping 3,700 jobs (-50%) were lost in covered employment compared to the previous month. When you take into account how seasonal the industry is, the decline becomes even more surprising.
A loss of half of the industry’s workforce in a single month masks the full severity of the problem because breweries and pubs tend to increase their staffing levels in the spring.
The brewing business in Oregon, like the economy as a whole, saw an initial V-shaped job rebound during the summer of 2020. Of the total 3,700 jobs lost in April, around 2,700 were restored by bars and brewers. Despite this significant improvement, breweries nevertheless lost over 27% of their workforce between August 2019 and August 2020.
The effects of COVID on the brewing business were, as might be expected, far more severe than on the economy as a whole, but the loss of jobs in the sector was also greater than the 23% annual decline in employment in the food and beverage services sector. As a whole, the economy lost only 8% of its workforce between August 2019 and August 2020.
As is typical for seasonal businesses, employment dropped again during the cold months of 2021. As a whole, however, things were looking up, and that’s still the case. As of June 2022, we know that employment at Oregon’s breweries and brewpubs had fallen by 14% from its August 2019 peak. In the summer of 2022, if seasonal hiring trends held true, brewing employment would have rebounded to levels not far off from those seen before the epidemic.
There are several intriguing patterns hidden in these summary statistics. At least 263 businesses reported having open positions in the summer of 2019, months before the pandemic will hit in August of that year. Nearly three years after the pandemic’s initial impact, in June 2022, 109 of these breweries still had lower but some employment.
The year 2020 was difficult for many types of businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered the way we engage the economy. https://t.co/CPSAwostNx
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By June of 2022, 64 had stopped providing any information about their work status. Approximately 244 breweries reported having open positions in June of 2022. Of them, 116 reported an increase in employment during that time, with 31 of those newly employed.
We don’t have a reliable metric for businesses leaving and launching, but we can tell if a company suddenly stopped reporting employees or started doing so for the first time. Bridgeport, Lompoc, and The Ram are just a few examples of those that were officially shut down for good. Fascinatingly, some establishments that have declared their closure permanently did so before the pandemic even began.
Thirty-one breweries have started reporting employment for the first time, which is probably the most impressive statistic. Breweries that started paying their employees during the recovery from the pandemic and the recession weren’t necessarily new. I give props to these risk-takers for opening a brewery in a hostile neighborhood.
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Despite the difficulties of the last three years, there is cause for optimism as we free ourselves from the shackles of the past. With fewer public health regulations in effect, consumers felt more at ease frequenting establishments like brewpubs.
Beer consumption rose as the economy recovered and people spent the money they had saved throughout the outbreak. If a recession occurs in the economy in 2022, it will be a major problem.
Although the mix of what and where people drink may change, brewers can rest easy knowing that alcoholic beverages are recession-resistant products.
Regional economist Erik Knoder works for the Oregon Employment Department. His contact info is 541-351-5595.
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