2016 Job Growth in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler Counties

by Dallas Fridley

April 13, 2017

Nonfarm employment in Wheeler County averaged 275 jobs in 2016. Sherman County followed with 750 nonfarm jobs and Gilliam County led the three-county group with 855.

Gilliam County rose by 20 jobs in 2016, Sherman County gained 15 and Wheeler County held steady with 275. Ranked by 2016 employment, Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler counties held the bottom three positions in Oregon. Taken as a group, the three counties averaged 1,880 jobs in 2016 – fewer than Lake County’s 2,190 or Harney County’s 2,260 (the bottom five).

Government typically holds a large share of nonfarm employment in rural counties, particularly for Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler counties. The public vs. private split was nearly even in Wheeler County, with 140 private industry jobs in 2016 and 135 government jobs. Nearly all of Wheeler County’s government jobs were in local government (125). Trade, transportation, and utilities led private industry with 50 jobs.

In Sherman County, private industry provided 515 jobs in 2016 and government employed 340. Local government represented the largest chunk with 165 jobs, but federal government employed 135 thanks in large part to the Columbia River’s John Day Hydroelectric Dam. In private industry, trade, transportation, and utilities led with 255 jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality with 130.

Sherman County led the three-county region with 855 jobs in 2016 but looking back from 2001 to 2016, Gilliam County has more often than not been the employment leader. In 2008, Gilliam County averaged 945 nonfarm jobs – thanks in part due to wind farm development and its associated construction employment. By 2012, Gilliam County’s nonfarm employment fell to 845 jobs – a loss of 100 from its 2008 peak. In 2013, Gilliam County cut an additional 115 jobs to average 730, giving way to Sherman County’s 780. Wheeler County has held the bottom position throughout 2001 to 2016, although its nonfarm employment peaked back in 2002 with 330 jobs.

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