Workforce Profile


West Plains Labor Shed

A review of U.S. Census Data, EMSI and ESRI data, and interviews with employers all were used to define a labor shed area for the West Plains, Missouri, area labor market, from which employers in the West Plains market can reasonably expect to draw employees.

The West Plains Labor shed consists of 10 counties in Southern Missouri and North Central Arkansas.  These counties are:

MISSOURI: Carter, Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Shannon, Texas and Wright.

ARKANSAS: Fulton and Sharp.


Fulton County, AR 12,124
Sharp County, AR 17,096
Carter County, MO 6,173
Douglas County, MO 13,311
Howell County, MO 40,151
Oregon County, MO 10,800
Ozark County, MO 9,192
Shannon County, MO 8,140
Texas County, MO 25,756
Wright County, MO 18,201
TOTAL 160,943

Total population of the labor shed counties is 160,943, or 1.8 percent of the total population of the state of Missouri. Of that there are 95,733 residents between the ages of 15 and 65. The population is 93 percent Caucasian. The male-female breakdown is almost exactly 50-50.

A total of 81.8 percent of the working age population has a high school diploma or higher and, the percentage of veterans is 50 percent above the national average. Both the violent crime rate and the property crime rate per capital are below the national average.

The portion of the population identified as being a part of the labor force (between the ages of 16 and 65, and either employed or looking for work) is 60,608. The labor shed is a net exporter of workers, as there are only 46,909 jobs reported within it. Only Howell County is a net importer of workers, listing 16,609 jobs in 2017 and a labor force of 15,224. The remaining counties within the labor shed export from 25 to 50 percent of their workforce to other locations.

Labor force participation has historically been steady at about 48 percent until the early part of 2017, when it dropped to about 47 percent and hovered there for the remainder of the year. That figure is significantly lower than the national average of 65 percent of the population between 16 and 65. A portion of this can be attributed to the region being a destination for retirees, and there being a perceived lack of “good jobs” for younger residents.

Like much of the remainder of the U.S., unemployment rates were near 10 percent in 2010, and fell gradually to drop below 5 percent in 2017. The low point in unemployment was 3.23 percent in October 2017.

More than half the employees (54.4 percent) in the labor shed work in small businesses employing from 1 to 4 individuals. Another 21 percent work in establishments employing from 5 to 9 individuals; another 13 percent in establishments employing from 10 to 19 individuals. Only 1 percent of the workforce works in establishments employing more than 100 people, and only the hospital employs more than 500 people.