Pandemic Employment Blip Stalls Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler Counties in 2020

by Dallas Fridley

June 28, 2021

From an employment standpoint, COVID-19 impacts in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties were relatively minor. Nonfarm employment in Sherman County actually rose by 15 jobs in 2020, an increase of 2% to average 930. Gilliam County held its own in 2020 with 920 jobs and Wheeler County lost five, falling to 290. The pandemic didn’t alter the long-term (2010-2020) employment trend for Gilliam, Sherman, or Wheeler.
Over the 2010-2020 decade, Sherman County enjoyed a nonfarm employment increase of 150 jobs or 19%, rising to 930. Private industry produced nearly all of Sherman County’s growth over the decade, rising to 600 jobs in 2020, an increase of 150 or 33%. Private industry experienced growth throughout the decade – with an increase of 125 jobs or 20% between 2010 and 2019, leading to a gain of 25 or 4% in 2020. Federal government job growth led the public sector, rising by 10 jobs over the decade to average 125 in 2020. State government chipped in five jobs to total 50. Local government held its own from 2010 to 2019 but COVID-19 impacts in 2020 eliminated 15 jobs for a loss of 9%.
Gilliam County’s nonfarm employment averaged 920 jobs in 2020, rising by 25 jobs or 3% over the decade. Windfarm construction lifted Gilliam County’s private industry employment at the start of the decade and then again over 2019 and 2020. Private industry averaged 655 jobs in 2010 but the boost from construction ended with the loss of 150 jobs in 2013. Construction grew again over 2019 and 2020 to fuel a two-year gain of 150 jobs. As a result, private industry reached a new peak of 685 jobs in 2020, climbing 30 jobs ahead of 2010. Also noteworthy, professional and business services grew by 95 jobs or 68% over the decade to average 235 in 2020. Local government produced all of Gilliam County’s public-sector growth, rising by 20 jobs over the decade while state cut 20 and federal lost five.

Wheeler County’s nonfarm employment rose by 15 jobs or 5% between 2010 and 2020 to average 290. Private industry led Wheeler County’s growth, rising by 20 jobs or 14% from 2010 to 2020 to average 160. Wheeler County cut five private industry jobs in 2020. Government held its own over the decade, averaging 135 jobs, with local government alone employing 125.

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