Skip Navigation

Home : Reports, data & tools : County Profiles : Asotin County Profile

Asotin County Profile

Overview | Geographic facts | Outlook | Labor force and unemployment |
Industry employment | Wages and Income | Population


Regional context

Asotin County, established in 1883, is in the farthest southeastern corner of Washington, bounded on the east by Idaho and on the south by Oregon. Garfield County makes up its western border and part of its northern border as well. The balance of its northern border is shared with Whitman County.

Before white exploration and settlement, the semi-nomadic Nez Perce inhabited what is now Asotin County. Tribes on both sides of the Nez Perce Trail used it for commerce, which was of strategic importance to the development of the region. Modern-day highways largely parallel the old trail.

The establishment of the territory and the end of the Indian Wars resulted in an influx of white settlers into the county. Asotin, a former Nez Perce village, attracted settlers who were producing cattle, fruit and vegetables for mining camps in Idaho by 1868. Most economic development in the county was linked to mining activity in Idaho.

By the 1950s, agriculture dominated Asotin County’s economy with grain crops, such as wheat and barley, as well as peas, berries, tree fruits and nuts, which were clustered near the river. The food processing industry grew up around these crops and the meat and dairy farms.

The dense stands of fir in the Blue Mountains made lumber and wood products a growth industry. Hunting and other outdoor recreation have been growth industries, too. The completion of the Lower Granite Dam in 1975 shut down orchard and beef-processing activities along the river as land was submerged, but it created one of the longest inland water routes in the nation. Agriculture remained important, but now shared top billing with port activity at Clarkston-Lewiston and the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operated the dam. Population growth followed the port activity at both Clarkston and Lewiston, fueling trade and service sectors catering to their needs.

Source: Historic Glimpses of Asotin County by E.V. Kuykendall, Bob Weatherley of the Asotin County American

Local economy

Based on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), in 2014 overall employment grew by 2.1 percent to 5,770, which was led by construction (4.2%) and manufacturing (29.1%), as these two industries bounced back from the recession downturn and related job losses.

Manufacturing employment has been increasing, adding more so than expected jobs in the area. New manufacturing facilities have been constructed and existing firms have continued to hire due to increasing demand. Manufacturing continues to expand in the transportation equipment segment.

Agricultural employment also continues to play an oversized role, not in terms of total employment, but in terms of economic impact. High prices for wheat positively impacts wholesale sales employment, retail sales and the overall quantity of money flowing through the economy.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Asotin County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 636.21 34
Persons per square mile, 2010 34.0 20



Export-related manufacturing continued to be a source of very positive growth for the economy and overall employment in this sector has recovered to 2009 employment levels prior to the recession slump. As overall economic conditions improve around the world, exports will become an area of greater strength and diversity. Some local manufacturers have made efforts to open up new Asian and European export markets for their products, especially durable goods.

Construction jobs along with financial activities are also improving on their way to recovery. More and more activities are occurring in construction, reflecting more consumer confidence in real estate investments.

Agriculture employment is expected to continue its very slow job growth as wheat production becomes increasingly mechanized. For the region, wheat crop production was at levels considered very profitable, historically. With increased demand, decreased worldwide production stemming from droughts and higher than average per bushel prices, the local value of wheat harvest was above average. Commodities across most markets have continued to benefit from changing levels of global trade, demand and monetary valuation. It is likely these trends could stop as quickly as they started.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

Current labor force and unemployment statistics are available on the Labor area summaries page.

The total county labor force was estimated at 9,730 in 2014, about 1.2 percent less than in 2013. The labor force in the county has been declining at the rate of 1.5 percent a year since its peak of 10,330 in 2010. Unemployment was lower in 2014 at 6.0 percent, a decreased from 7.4 percent in 2013. The labor force participation rate in 2013 was 55.9 percent, down from 61.7 percent in 2010.

Asotin County’s labor force participation rate has fallen much faster and farther than that seen in the state. The national participation rate increased over this same time period. On the other hand, total employment has been more stable and it increased by 0.3 percent from 2013 to 2014. Number of employed residents in 2014 stood at 9,150, or 94 percent of the workforce.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

Current industry employment statistics are available on the Labor area summaries page.

In 2014, QCEW data show Asotin County averaged 5,770 covered jobs, up by 2.1 percent from 5,650 in 2013. Of these jobs, the service-providing sector dominates with 84.7 percent of total covered employment while goods-producing industries make up only 15.3 percent. However, the goods-producing industry has been the main driver of growth over the year with an increase of 112 jobs or 14.6 percent. It has been the source of all job growth over the last 20 years, increasing its share as construction and manufacturing decreased their shares.

  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting continues to be a small component of total 2014 employment at 1.4 percent; however, it did increase over the year by 8.0 percent. Overall average agricultural wages in 2014 were $21,058, an increase of 11.0 percent from the 2013 average wage of $18,965.
  • Construction employment continued to grow for the third year in a row with 15 additional jobs in 2014. Total count was 370 covered jobs, which is highest in the past four years, but still 27.6 percent less than the pre-recession high in 2005. Construction is the fifth largest industry in the county with 6.4 percent of employment and an average $41,402 annual wage.
  • Total employment in manufacturing increased by 29.1 percent in 2014. At the moment manufacturing makes up only 7.0 percent of total employment or 404 jobs. Manufacturing pays a $37,639 average annual wage, which increased 5.3 percent from $35,743 in 2013.
  • Recent reports indicate business sales and productivity of workers are both up. Major growth occurred in transportation equipment manufacturing, with a 10.9 percent increase over the year. This specific industry is primarily jet boat manufacturing which has national and international appeal. Boat manufacturing in the area is gaining momentum, expanding with additional exports and trade growth at the international level.
  • Retail trade is the third largest industry in the county with an 18.0 percent share of total employment. Retail employment increased in 2009 as the result of a new Wal-Mart store opening in Clarkston, Washington. The store was previously in Lewiston, Idaho. Also, the Clarkston area hosts a Costco shopping warehouse, which brings regional appeal to shoppers in Southeastern Washington and Central Idaho. However, average wages in the retail sector tend to be lower than those of other industries at $29,586 annually. However, retailers do provide important employment opportunities for new entrants and re-entrants into the labor market and support local communities with retail services and convenience
  • Health care and social assistance in Asotin County is the second largest industry making up 19.2 percent of total employment. It has been and continues to be a key source of jobs for the county. The health care and social assistance industry provided around 1,105 jobs that paid on average $35,335 annually in 2014. Ambulatory health care services, hospitals and nursing and residential facilities all have more employment than is typical for a community this size. However this is reflection of the Clarkston area being part of the Lewiston, ID MSA. Another contributor to the health care increase is the most recent industry reclassification of private household nursing employees from “other services” to “social assistance”, which has added employment but decreased average annual wages.
  • Accommodation and food services jobs have remained fairly steady, growing by 1.6 a year over the last four years. This industry has 11.2 percent of total employment and average annual wages of $16,055, which increased by 4.2 percent over the year. Nonetheless, this is the lowest paying industry which remains an important support industry for the business community, visitors and area residents.
  • Professional and technical services employment had 212 jobs in 2014, which marked first decrease (10 jobs) since 2008.This industry is an assortment of business types that support health care, construction and engineering services mainly in administrative support, which is reflected in the average annual wage of $27,733.
  • Government administration makes up 20.5 percent of total employment in the area, mainly in local and state education and health services. Government is the largest industry segment in the county and it paid on average $35,508 in 2014.

For historical industry employment data, contact an economist.

Industry employment by age and gender

(Source: The Local Employment Dynamics)

The Local Employment Dynamics (LED) database, a joint project of state employment departments and the U.S. Census Bureau, matches state employment data with federal administrative data. Among the products is industry employment by age and gender. All workers covered by state unemployment insurance data are included; federal workers and non-covered workers, such as the self-employed, are not. Data are presented by place of work, not place of residence. Some highlights:

In 2013, men held 43.2 percent of the jobs in Asotin County and women held 56.8 percent.

  • Workers over the age of 55 years of age held 22.0 percent of all employment, up by 1.9 percent from 2012, close to the state number of 21.4 percent.
  • Workers between the ages of 25 and 34 held 22.5 percent of all employment, which is up by 0.5 percent from year before.
  • Male-dominated industries included construction (86.7 percent), manufacturing (84.5 percent), transportation and warehousing (83.5 percent) and wholesale trade (76.5 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included health care and social assistance (82.8 percent), professional, scientific and technical services (80.9 percent), education services (71.9 percent) and finance and insurance (70.4 percent).

Wages and income

(Source: Employment Security Department; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey)

  • In 2014, employers in Asotin County paid $187.4 million in wages, which increased by 3.8 percent from $180.6 million in 2013.
  • The average annual wage for jobs in the county increased by 1.6 percent to $32,483 in 2014 from $31,967 in 2013.
  • The 2013 median hourly wage for Asotin County was $16.06, below the state figure of $22.09 and the state figure minus King County of $19.57.
  • Among major industries, wages were highest in wholesale trade ($66,921), finance and insurance ($47,946), construction ($41,402), information ($38,981) and manufacturing ($37,639).
  • Accommodation and food services ($16,055), arts and entertainment ($20,751), agriculture ($21,058) had the lowest average annual wages.
  • Median household income in 2013 was $43,175 up by 2.1 percent from 2012. This is much lower than the state average of $59,478.
  • Workers living in Asotin County earn a large portion of their income outside of the county. In 2013 workers earned over 52.1 percent of their total wages working outside of the county.

Personal income

Personal income includes earned income, investment income, and government payments such as Social Security and Veterans Benefits. Investment income includes income imputed from pension funds and from owning a home. Per capita personal income equals total personal income divided by the resident population.

  • Per capita income in Asotin was $38,078 in 2013, which is 85.1 percent of the U.S. average ($44,765) and 79.8 percent of the state average ($47,717).
  • Per capita income rose during the last three years, with average growth at 2.9 percent.
  • Investment income was 24.3 percent of per capita total income in 2013, which increased by 6.2 percent a year since 2010.
  • Government transfer payments, as a proportion of total income, have risen steadily from 12 percent in 1969 to 29 percent in 2010, which marked its peak. Since 2010 transfer payments have declined by 0.96 percent a year to 27 percent in 2013.
  • The poverty rate for Asotin County in 2013 was estimated at 13.6 percent. About one out of every five residents under the age of 18 lives in poverty, somewhat higher than in the state as a whole.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

The U.S. Census estimates the population of Asotin County in 2014 was 22,189. Since 2010, the county’s population has increased 2.6 percent, slower than the 5.0 percent for the state.

  • Asotin County had 34.0 people per square mile in 2010. The state had 101.2 people per square mile.
  • The population has experienced more net in-migration than natural increases.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Asotin County Washington state
Population 2014 22,189 7,061,530
Population 2010 21,623 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 2.6% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • In 2014, Asotin County had 21.0 percent of its population under age 18, compared to 22.7 percent statewide.
  • The population was 20.9 percent 65 years and over, compared with 14.1 percent statewide.
  • Females were 51.8 percent of the population, compared to 50.0 percent statewide.
  • Asotin County was less diverse than the state in terms of race and in 2014, 94.8 percent of residents were white and non-Latino, compared with 80.1 percent statewide.
  • Hispanic or Latino residents represented 3.6 percent of population, compared to 12.1 percent statewide.
  • Asotin County’s median age in 2014 was 44.3 years; male residents had a 43.6 median age and female residents a 44.9 median age.
  • Washington state’s median age in 2014 was 37.5 years; male residents had a 36.5 median age and female residents a 38.7 median age.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Asotin County Washington state
Population by age, 2014    
Under 5 years old 5.4% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 21.0% 22.7%
65 years and older 20.9% 14.1%
Females, 2014 51.8% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 94.8% 80.1%
Black 0.9% 4.2%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.5% 1.5%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.0% 9.8%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.6% 12.1%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • In the period 2009 – 2013, Asotin County residents over the age of 25 had similar high school graduation rates, 89.6 percent, compared to their statewide counterparts at 90.0 percent.
  • An estimated 17.2 percent of those over 25 had a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, compared to 31.9 percent statewide.