Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ Oregon employers are reporting 10,000 more job vacancies than they had a year ago and more trouble finding the right candidates, leading to higher wages, according to a report released Monday by the Oregon Employment Department.

The number of unemployed Oregonians also is falling. With more vacancies and fewer jobless workers, there are now four people unemployed for every job vacancy, down from eight a year ago, according to data from the quarterly job vacancy survey of employers.

“What it’s basically showing is there’s a tighter labor market,” said Jessica Nelson, a state employment economist. “After several years of very slow growth, things have been ramping up more quickly in the last six to nine months.”

Employers reported nearly 33,000 job vacancies this winter. Nearly all of the 10,000 additional vacancies were attributed to companies with fewer than 100 employees. The concentration of vacancies at smaller employers was unusually pronounced, Nelson said, though difficult to explain from the data.

Many of the smaller employers with job vacancies were in the construction, retail and natural resources industries, suggesting people are opening more small stores and independent construction contractors are hiring more help, she said.

Employers reported having difficulty filling 54 percent of jobs, up from 39 percent last winter. As a result, the average wage offered was up 74 cents from a year ago, to $16.05.

The survey found more vacancies this year than last in every region of the state, though more than half _ 19,000 _ of all vacancies are in the Portland area.