Sixty Percent of Baker County’s Government Workers Are Local

by Christopher Rich

March 9, 2017

Growth in government employment generally draws mixed reviews from the public. Federal, state, and local government serves an essential function in U.S. society, but growth in the public sector can either be seen as progress or infringement depending on one’s point of view. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, this county level analysis of government employment offers insight for any discussion.

Federal, state, and local government provided 1,242 jobs in Baker County in December 2016 and represented 24 percent of total nonfarm employment in the county (based on a 12-month rolling average). Comparing 1990 with 2016, government employment in the county decreased by 7 percent. Baker’s public-sector decrease was gradual over the last 15 years and followed a period of stability (1993 to 2001) in which total government employment hovered around 1,400 jobs. Government employment reached its peak in 2001 with a contribution of 1,431 jobs to the county’s economy. From 2002 to 2016, the public sector showed an overall downward trend.
While total government employment was stable for roughly a decade, federal and local government employment pulled the sector in opposite directions. Most of the upward movement came from local government with just a small nudge from state government. Almost all of the decrease in government jobs came from federal government. Federal government peaked at 475 jobs in 1993, but since then federal employment has dropped 55 percent to reach 213 jobs in December 2016. This federal decrease represents all of the decrease in total government employment since 1990 and 50 percent of the government decrease since 2001. The federal decrease came primarily from the Forest Service.

The bulk of federal government jobs in Baker County in 2016 (roughly 64%) were found in the Forest Service – a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nearly one-third of all Forest Service jobs in the county are seasonal and occur from May to November. The United States Postal Service (USPS) accounted for another 17 percent of federal government jobs in the county and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was a close third with 16 percent.

Local government employment saw growth in Baker County from 1990 to 2001, rising 20 percent to reach a peak of 843 jobs. However, a decrease over the last 15 years returned local government employment to 766 jobs in December 2016. This marks a 9 percent drop below peak employment, but is still 14 percent above the 1990 level (672 jobs). The local government increase came from education and from county government. The majority of the decrease came from education. For local government workers, 52 percent of jobs were found in school districts and Blue Mountain Community College (BMCC) in 2016. The remaining employment in local government came from county and city public administration, works, health, and safety.

State government employment saw light and steady growth from 1990 to 2016 in Baker County. Employment rose 17 percent for the period, moving from 225 jobs in 1990 to 263 jobs in 2016. The state’s share of total government employment also grew steadily over the 26-year period. State government represented 17 percent of all government jobs in the county in 1990 and 22 percent in 2016. For Baker County, roughly 65 percent of state jobs came from three areas: the Powder Creek Correctional Facility (28%), the Department of Human Services (DHS) (13%), and home care workers for the elderly (24%), who receive payments through DHS, but who are not DHS employees.

The majority of government employment in Baker County was provided by local government (50%) in 1990 with federal government second at 33 percent. Local government’s share increased to 60 percent in 2016 with federal government’s share falling to 18 percent. Baker County school districts and BMCC provided roughly 31 percent of all government jobs in the county. The U.S. Forest Service provided roughly 11 percent and the Powder Creek Correctional Facility provided roughly 6 percent of all government jobs.

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