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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 2013 overall employment grew by 1.3 percent to 5,650 as construction (8.2%) and real estate (9.1%) markets bounced back from the recession downturn. Also, professional and business services (2.3%), administrative and waste services (21.7%), accommodation and food services (3.9%) and manufacturing (11.8%) employment increased over the year by adding more diversity to the counties industry structure.

Manufacturing employment had been increasing and has begun to add jobs in the area. New manufacturing facilities have been constructed and existing firms have continued to hire due to expansion demand.

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 level 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



For the past three years through 2013, nonfarm employment in Asotin County decreased at the rate of 0.6 percent a year, while the state and the nation are increasing at 1.4 and 1.5 percent a year, respectively. 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. 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 export markets for their products especially durable goods manufacturing in Asian and European markets.

Construction jobs along with financial activities are improving and are on the way to recovery. While professional and business sector is expending and it is becoming one of the major economic drivers in the area.

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 9,760 in 2013, about 1.1 percent less than in 2012. Unemployment was lower in 2013 at 7.2 percent from 8.9 percent in 2012. A change in labor force corresponds to the changes in general population growth, as well as population migration to surrounding areas.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In 2013, QCEW data shows Asotin County averaged 5,650 total covered jobs, up by 1.3 percent from 5,579 in 2012. Of these jobs, the service-providing sector dominates with 88.0 percent share of total covered employment. 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 employment at less than 1.4 percent. Overall agricultural employment continues to remain flat with average wages at $18,965.
  • Construction employment continues to grow for the second year in a raw with 27 additional jobs in 2013. Total count is at 355 covered jobs, which is highest in past four years, but 30.5 percent less than prerecession high in 2005. Construction is fifth largest industry in the County with total of 6.3 percent employment share, with average $41,775 annual wage.
  • Total employment in manufacturing has increased by 11.8 percent in 2013. At the moment manufacturing makes up only 5.5 percent of total employment or 313 jobs. Manufacturing pays $35,743 average annual wage for the job. Recent reports indicate business sales and productivity of workers are both up. Boat manufacturing in the area is gaining momentum and expending with added export and trade growth on international level. If sales stay in the positive zone, especially those in export-related markets, then firms will need to start hiring again.
  • Retail trade is the largest industry in the county with 18.5 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. Even though average wages in the retail sector tend to be lower at $29,067, they provide important employment opportunities for new entrants and re-entrants into the labor market.
  • Health care and social assistance in p, have been and continue to be a key source of jobs for the county with 17.1 percent share of total employment. Health care and social assistance industry provided around 966 jobs that paid on average $38,745 in 2013. Ambulatory health care services, hospitals and nursing and residential facilities all have a more employment than typical for an area this size, however it is reflection of the Clarkston area being part of Lewiston, ID MSA.
  • Accommodation and food services jobs have remained fairly steady and growing over the last three years with the share of 11.2 percent of total employment and average annual wages of $15,408. As business and the economy are improve after recession, accommodation and food services are increasing in employment. Over the year, from 2012 to 2013 this industry has grown by 3.9 percent or 24 new jobs.
  • Professional and technical services employment has trended upward since 2008 and been a source of increased employment over the last three years, with average annual growth rate of 2.3 percent. This industry employs around 222 workers with average annual pay of $28,120. These gains are coming from an assortment of business types that support health care, construction and engineering services.
  • Education makes up 10.7 percent of total employment in the area and it includes both private and public education. On average 600 jobs are provided in education yearly, with an average annual wage of $33,803.
  • Government administration makes up 7.0 percent of total employment in the area.

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 2012, 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 20.1 percent of all employment, which was close to the state number of 20.9 percent.
  • Workers between the ages of 25 and 34 held 22.0 percent of all employment.
  • Male-dominated industries included manufacturing (83.7 percent), construction (86.5 percent), wholesale trade (76.7 percent) and transportation and warehousing (82.0 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (70.0 percent), health care and social assistance (83.5 percent), education services (72.9 percent) and professional, scientific and technical services (79.6 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 2013, employers in Asotin County paid $180.6 million in wages, which increased slightly from $174.7 million in 2012.
  • The average annual wage for jobs in the county was $31,967 in 2013 and $31,314 in 2012.
  • The 2012 median hourly wage for Asotin was $15.82, below the state figure of $21.64 and the state figure minus King County of $19.24.
  • Among major industries, wages were highest in wholesale trade, finance and insurance, construction, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and warehousing and government.
  • Accommodation and food services, arts and entertainment, agriculture and other services had the lowest average wages.
  • Median household income in 2008-2012 was $42,305. This is much lower than the state average of $53,280.
  • Workers living in Asotin County earn a large portion of their income outside of the county. In 2012 workers earned over 52.4 percent of their total wages 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 $36,826 in 2012, which is 84.2 percent of the U.S. average ($43,735) and 80.0 percent of the state average ($46,045).
  • Per capita income rose during the last three years, with average growth at 1.9 percent.
  • Investment income was 23 percent of total income in 2012.
  • Government transfer payments, as a proportion of total income, have risen steadily from 12 percent in 1969 to 28 percent in 2012.
  • The poverty rate for Asotin County in 2012 was estimated at 13.7 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 2013 was 22,110. Since 2010, the county’s population has increased 2.3 percent, slower than the 3.7 percent for the state.

  • Asotin County had a 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 2013 22,110 6,971,406
Population 2010 21,623 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 2.3% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • In 2013, Asotin County had 21.1 percent of its population under age 18, compared to 22.9 percent statewide.
  • The population was 20.3 percent over age 65, compared with 13.6 percent statewide.
  • Females were 51.9 percent of the population compared to 50.0 percent statewide.
  • It was less diverse than the state in terms of race and in 2013, 91.3 percent of residents were white and non-Latino, compared with 71.0 percent statewide.
  • Hispanic or Latino residents represented 3.7 percent of population, compared to 11.9 percent statewide.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Asotin County Washington state
Population by age, 2013    
Under 5 years old 5.5% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 21.1% 22.9%
65 years and older 20.3% 13.6%
Females, 2013 51.9% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 94.4% 81.2%
Black 0.6% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.7% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.0% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.7% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • In the period 2008 – 2012, Asotin County residents over the age of 25 had similar high school graduation rates, 89.1 percent, compared to their statewide counterparts at 90.0 percent.
  • An estimated 16.3 percent of those over 25 had a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, compared to 31.6 percent statewide.