Wheeler County’s 2020 Payroll Loss Concentrated in Natural Resources and Mining

by Dallas Fridley

December 20, 2021

Wheeler County’s total all ownerships payroll fell by $0.3 million in 2020, dropping to $9.4 million, a loss of nearly 4%. Five Oregon counties, including Clatsop, Hood River, Lincoln, and Linn, suffered a payroll loss in 2020. Oregon’s payroll rose by 2.4% or $2.6 billion to $110.1 billion, while its remaining 31 counties also managed at least some 2020 payroll growth.
One big caveat for 2020 was the Paycheck Protection Program, which distributed nearly $0.9 million in loan assistance to eligible Wheeler County businesses. A total of 56 loans were approved with 53 loans or about $0.8 million forgiven to date according to the SBA. To be eligible for forgiveness, at least 60% of the total borrowed or $0.5 million had to be spent on payroll costs. These payroll costs could be incurred in 2020 or 2021 or both years depending on the period covered by the loan. The window for forgiveness is open for 10 months following the last day of the covered loan period.

On the employment side, 33 of 36 Oregon counties suffered 2020 job losses. Total all ownerships (private and government) employment in Wheeler County fell by 21 jobs or 7% in 2020, compared with Oregon’s 6% loss.

Wages rose moderately in 2020, with Wheeler County’s average reaching $32,082, an increase of $1,044 or 3% over 2019. Oregon’s all ownerships average wage reached $59,925, about $27,800 higher than Wheeler’s. Among Oregon counties, Wheeler’s average wage ranked 36th or last, trailing 35th place Curry ($39,446) by more than $7,300.

The annual wage gap for 26 of Oregon’s 36 counties exceeded $10,000 in 2020. Only three counties, Morrow ($60,567), Multnomah ($68,054), and Washington ($79,899) exceeded Oregon’s 2020 average wage. Multnomah County boasted Oregon’s largest payroll in 2020, with $32.5 billion or 29.5% of Oregon’s total payroll. Washington County’s 2020 payroll, at $22.8 billion, ranked second (Gilliam 34th). Together the two counties held just over half of Oregon’s $110.1 billion payroll while hosting nearly 42% of its jobs. Excluding Multnomah and Washington, average pay for Oregon’s remaining 34 counties falls to $50,985, a drop of about $8,940 or 15%.

Wheeler County’s 2020 private industry payroll fell to $5.1 million, a loss of 10% or $0.6 million. Private industry cut 21 jobs (-11%), dropping its 2020 total to 178. Employment and payroll information are not available for many private industries in Wheeler County due to confidentiality limitations. Suppressed industries include construction (3 units); manufacturing (3 units); wholesale trade (1 unit); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (1 unit); and financial activities (2 units).

Education and health services led private industry payroll growth in 2020 rising by nearly $0.2 million or 10% to total $1.8 million. Employment changed very little, rising by one job to average 54. Annual wages reached $32,841, an increase of $2,418 or about 8%.

Natural resources and mining cut its 2020 payroll by $0.4 million (-33%), falling to $0.9 million. Natural resources and mining also cut eight jobs, falling to 27 (-23%). Average pay fell by about $5,000 in 2020 to $33,453.

Leisure and hospitality cut its payrolls in 2020, falling by $0.2 million or 41% to total $0.3 million. Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 10 jobs or 36% to average 18. Wages in leisure and hospitality fell to an average $17,452, lagging Wheeler County’s all ownerships pay by about $14,600.

Retail trade suffered a payroll loss of 12% in 2020, dropping by about $0.1 million to total $0.5 million. Employment fell by three jobs or 11% to average 24. Wages in retail trade averaged $19,179, trailing the county’s all ownerships average by about $12,900.

Government managed a payroll gain of $0.2 million or 6%, rising to $4.3 million. Government represented 46% of Wheeler County’s all ownerships payrolls in 2020; and 39% of its jobs. Government employment held steady with 116 jobs, while its pay averaged $37,375, exceeding the county’s all ownerships wage by about $5,300.

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