Socioeconomic trends in Phillips County have historically been linked to the Agriculture and natural resource extraction industries. The Agricultural Industry has retained a prominent role in the Phillips County economy for over a century and the agricultural life style is reflected in current land use patterns.
77% of area land cover is range land, 17% is used for dry land crops, 2% is used for irrigated crops, 3% is woodland and about 1% is water. Winter wheat, spring wheat and alfalfa are considered the primary crops in Phillips County. However, some farmers are diversifying and growing pulse crops such as peas and lentils.
According to “Montana: 2012 Agricultural Statistics,” Phillips County produced 58,000 beef cattle, more than any other northeastern Montana county. The number of people fed by those 58,000 beef cattle is approximately 355,598. Phillips County also produced 2,641,000 bushels of spring wheat and 1,410,000 bushels of winter wheat.
For over 20 years, gold mining in the Little Rockies contributed greatly to the local economy and tax base. Pegasus Gold Company brought active gold mining back to the area in the late 1970’s and maintained operations, employing as many as 230 employees until the mid 1990’s when low gold prices, internal problems, and permitting issues forced the closure of the Zortman and Landusky mines.
Natural resource extraction is seen as a major industry in Phillips County and changes in this industry have had socioeconomic consequences over the years.
The mix of industries that comprise Phillips County’s economic base has remained fairly consistent over the years. Agriculture and natural resource extraction have been the dominant industries and continue to be, providing 30% of jobs in Phillips County. Educational services, healthcare and social services provide 23% of jobs, with transportation, warehousing and utilities providing 11%. Manufacturing provides only 1% of jobs in Phillips County. It has been a long-term goal of the PhillCo Economic Growth Council to diversify the Phillips County economy by encouraging manufacturing.