Thirty Percent of Grant County’s Government Workers Are in the Woods

by Christopher Rich

January 4, 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 1,063 jobs in Grant County in November 2016 and represented 46 percent of total nonfarm employment in the county (based on a 12-month rolling average). Comparing 1990 to 2016, government employment in the county decreased by 12 percent. Grant’s public-sector decrease was gradual over the last 23 years, but it began after a short period of growth. Growth in total government for the county started at the beginning of 1992 and lasted until mid-1993. During this period, total government employment increased by 138 to reach its peak and contribute 1,350 jobs to the county’s economy.
From mid-1993 to 2016 the public sector showed an overall downward trend. Half of the short-lived government employment buildup came from federal government while the other half came from local government. The decrease however, came largely from federal government. Federal government peaked at 527 jobs in 1993, but since then federal employment dropped 45 percent to reach 292 jobs in November 2016. This federal decrease represents roughly all of the decrease in total government employment since 1990 and 82 percent of the government decrease since 1993.

The bulk of federal government jobs in Grant County in 2016 (roughly 85%) were found in the Forest Service – a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As many as half of all Forest Service jobs in the county are seasonal and occur from May to November. The United States Postal Service (USPS) and the National Park Service (USNPS) each accounted for another 6 percent of federal government jobs in the county.  

Local government employment saw growth in Grant County from 1990 to 1995, rising 17 percent to reach a peak of 727 jobs. A gradual decrease over the last 21 years, however, returned local government employment to 608 jobs in November 2016; just 2 percent below the 1990 mark (620 jobs). For local government workers, roughly 37 percent of jobs were found in school districts in 2016 and another 32 percent came from the Blue Mountain Hospital District. The remaining employment in local government came from county and city public administration, works, health, and safety.

State government employment saw slow, steady growth from 1990 to 2016 in Grant County. Employment rose 38 percent for the period, moving from 118 jobs in 1990 to 163 jobs in 2016. The state’s share of total government employment also grew steadily over the 26-year period. State government represented 9.8 percent of all government jobs in the county in 1990 and 15 percent in 2016. For Grant County, roughly 27 percent of state jobs were found in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), 17 percent were in the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), and 10 percent were in the Department of Human Services (DHS) in 2016. Home care workers for the elderly, who receive payments through DHS but who are not DHS employees, also accounted for roughly 16 percent of state employment in the county.

The majority of government employment in Grant County was provided by local government (52%) in 1990 with federal government close behind at 39 percent. Local government’s share increased to 57 percent in 2016 with federal government’s share falling to 28 percent. Blue Mountain Hospital and local education provided roughly 40 percent of all government jobs in the county while federal and state forestry, and state fish and wildlife provided roughly 30 percent of all government jobs.

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