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Chelan and Douglas Counties Profile



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

Overview

Regional context


Chelan and Douglas counties are on the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains and are separated by the Columbia River. Chelan and Douglas counties have a very diverse geographic area that includes mountains and lakes and flat areas next to the Columbia River. The varied terrain supports the two major industries in the area, tourism and agriculture.

The legislature created Chelan County in 1899, carving it out of Okanogan and Kittitas counties. Wenatchee is its county seat.

Douglas County is close to the geographic center of the state. Douglas County was created in 1883, named after U.S. Senator Steven Douglas of Illinois who was the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Territories when the Territory of Washington was created. Waterville is the county seat.

Chelan County ranks third in the state in land area while Douglas County ranks 17th. Both counties are sparsely populated as measured by persons per square mile.

Local economy

The first people of the area now known as Chelan and Douglas counties were tribes whose culture and economy centered on fishing and hunting and gathering. The Yakima Treaty of 1855 removed 10.8 million acres from the indigenous people’s title to the land. The result was war throughout the territory and eventual movement of tribes to the Colville Reservation.

Trappers and Chinese gold prospectors were among the first non-Indians who lived in the area in the early 1800s. White settlers followed, beginning in the 1870s. Irrigation along with railroads spurred agricultural development in Chelan County, particularly fruit orchards. Now grape vines are replacing some fruit orchards, driving development in wineries.

The Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes both Chelan and Douglas counties, depends heavily upon agriculture as well as seasonal employment in retail and leisure and hospitality. Agriculture tends to be the economic force for the area and it specifically revolves around various tree fruit that includes apples, cherries, pears and peaches. Wineries are playing an increasing role in both agriculture and in tourism. Agricultural employment directly links to nonfarm employment through nondurable goods manufacturing (i.e. food processing), wholesale trade (i.e. fresh fruit packinghouses) and transportation.

Chelan County is on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain range in central Washington. Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the country. With its nearly year-round sunshine, it has developed into an all-season outdoor recreational destination. Agriculture is a dominant industry in Chelan County with 24.1 percent of total covered employment (in 2014), followed by private health services with 13.5 percent of total covered employment. In addition to agriculture, tourism plays a large part in the local economy with two very popular areas for the state: Lake Chelan and Leavenworth. Lake Chelan is a great tourist area in the summer. Leavenworth provides year-round tourism with a Bavarian-themed village that hosts an Oktoberfest festival and has multiple ski resorts very close to town.

Agriculture in Douglas County, as in neighboring Chelan County, is a pillar of the economy with 28.6 percent of total covered employment (in 2014) in that industry, followed by local government, with 15.3 percent of covered employment. Food manufacturing/processing, warehousing and shipping that revolve around agriculture also define much of the industry makeup in Douglas County. A regional retail hub is found in East Wenatchee, the largest city in Douglas County, which features North Central Washington’s largest shopping mall.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Chelan County Douglas County Washington state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 2,920.53 1,819.26 66,455.52
Persons per square mile, 2010 24.8 21.1 101.2

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Outlook

The Wenatchee MSA's economy has posted year-over-year nonfarm employment increases for 41 months (from June 2012 through October 2015) and the pace of this expansion has been faster locally than statewide for at least the past twelve months. The Employment Security Department’s ten-year industry employment projections are for a 1.7 percent average annual growth rate from 2013-2023 for the five-county North Central WDA (i.e., Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan) and for a 1.8 percent growth rate for Washington state.

There is one negative economic event on the horizon which could throw a “monkey wrench” into these local employment projections. Chelan County will soon lose one of its highest paying businesses - Alcoa’s aluminum smelter in Malaga. According to the 25 November 2015 edition of the Wenatchee World: “January 5 will be the last day of work for all but a handful of the 428 employees at Alcoa’s Wenatchee Works smelter.”

Washington State Employment Security Department data show that in 2014 the average annual wage for a manufacturing job in Chelan County was $49,943 while the average wage for total covered employment was $35,912. Wages in manufacturing totaled $106.6 million, or 6.78 percent of total covered payroll ($1.48 billion) countywide and 4.87 percent (2,015 jobs) of total covered employment (41,345), indicating it is a relatively higher paying sector/industry. The loss of these jobs will be felt throughout the local economy and, although it will be hard to quantify, the smelter closing will certainly exert downward pressure on job and payroll growth rates in the years ahead.

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Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Unemployment rates in the Wenatchee MSA (Chelan and Douglas counties) were remarkably consistent in the four-year period from 2005 to 2008 (before the recession). Rates ranged from a low of 4.9 percent in 2007 to a high of 5.7 percent in 2005. This was a relatively narrow range. During the recession, unemployment rates in the Wenatchee MSA increased to 9.2 percent in 2010 before decreasing to 6.7 percent in 2014.

Between 2013 and 2014 in the Wenatchee MSA:

  • Not seasonally adjusted unemployment declined from 7.6 to 6.7 percent, a nine-tenths of a percentage point contraction. In comparison, Washington state’s unemployment rate decreased eight-tenths of a point (from 7.0 percent in 2013 to 6.2 percent in 2014).
  • The average number of unemployed fell from 4,519 to 4,030, equating to 489 fewer residents out of work in this two-county area during 2014. Also, the civilian labor force (CLF) rose by 1,093, from 59,177 to 60,270 residents, a 1.8 percent decrease. This was good economic news as it likely indicates that some discouraged workers were returning to the labor force in the two-county area in 2014. It could also indicate that; more baby boomers were delaying retirement (and remaining in the labor force), fewer residents are attending college on a full time basis, or fewer residents are claiming disabilities.

Although the Wenatchee MSA's CLF increased 1.8 percent in 2014 and the local labor force registered year-over-year growth for 17 consecutive months (from April 2014 through August 2015), the growth rate slowed to a minus -0.1 percent in September 2015. But between the Octobers of 2014 and 2015 the CLF rebounded slightly, from 64,021 to 64,092 residents (meaning that 71 more residents were in the local labor force), a modest 0.1 percent upturn. Fortunately, the number of unemployed declined appreciably from 3,371 in October 2014 to 2,923 in October 2015 (meaning that 448 fewer residents were out of work). The result: the Wenatchee MSA’s unemployment rate declined seven-tenths of a percentage point between the Octobers of 2014 and 2015.

When evaluating recent labor force trends in Chelan and Douglas counties, it is also helpful to look at the bigger picture (i.e., what’s going on in Washington state). There is some concern here. Although Washington's CLF has increased year over year for 21 months (from February 2014 through October 2015), the growth pace has been slowing for the past six months. Specifically, between the Aprils of 2014 and 2015 Washington’s CLF grew at a fairly robust 2.2-percent clip, but in each successive month growth rates have decreased and between the Octobers of 2014 and 2015 Washington’s labor force expanded a paltry 0.1 percent. Why is this important? Well, the local labor market is simply not isolated from statewide economic trends. Hence, this is certainly a development that bears watching.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

The analysis in the first part of this “Industry employment” section is derived primarily from Current Employment Statistics (CES) data. One advantage of these data is that the employment information is very current and data are updated monthly using CES employment estimates. However estimates are nonfarm related (i.e., they do not include agricultural employment figures). Also, these data combine employment figures for Chelan and Douglas counties into the two-county Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

The analysis in the second part of this “Industry employment” section are derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) program, conducted by the Washington State Employment Security Department. It takes a little longer to acquire QCEW data, but it is more detailed than CES data and it provides employment, wage and size of firm figures down to the county level. QCEW data include agricultural and nonagricultural employment and wages for firms, organizations and individuals whose employees are covered by the Washington State Employment Security Act. Also included are data for Federal Government agencies covered by Title 5, U.S.C. 85. Covered employment generally exceeds 85 percent of total employment in the state of Washington. Types of jobs not covered under the unemployment compensation system and hence not included in QCEW data include casual laborers not performing duties in the course of the employer’s trade or business; railroad personnel; newspaper delivery people; insurance or real estate agents paid on a commission basis only; non-covered employees working for parochial schools, religious, or non-profit organizations; employees of sheltered workshops; inmates working in penal institutions; non-covered corporate officers; etc.

Analysis using CES data:

Although the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the national recession occurred from December 2007 through June 2009, the effects of this recession hit the Wenatchee MSA labor market primarily in 2009 and 2010. Nonfarm employment in the two-county Wenatchee MSA peaked at an average of 40,200 jobs in 2008, then the recession hit. Since this recession, total nonfarm employment:

  • Dropped 3.9 percent in 2009 (down 1,600 jobs) to an average annual figure of 38,700
  • Nonfarm employment continued to slip during 2010, to 38,100, a 1.3-percent downturn.
  • During 2011 the local labor market in the two-county area rebounded to 38,500 jobs, a modest 0.9 percent and 300-job average annual upturn.
  • This 300-job uptrend was duplicated in 2012 with the number jobs advancing to 38,800, a 0.8 percent increase.
  • In 2013 the tempo of job growth improved to 1.4 percent as the Wenatchee MSA netted 500 new nonfarm jobs and employment rose to 39,300.
  • Last year (2014) the Wenatchee MSA’s nonfarm economy averaged 40,600 a relatively robust 3.2 percent growth pace (slightly more robust than the 2.7 percent growth rate statewide during 2014) as 1,300 new jobs were added to the labor market. Over three-fourths of these 1,300 jobs added last year were in construction, health services and leisure and hospitality. It took six years for the local economy to meet (and surpass) the 2008 employment peak of 40,200 nonfarm jobs but it finally did it by adding jobs at a modest rates 2011, 2012 and 2013 – with a “strong finish” in 2014.

In October 2015 local nonfarm employment averaged 43,600 jobs which was a 1,600 job and 3.8 percent expansion from the 42,000 recorded in October 2014. The Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has registered year-over-year employment increases for the past 41 months (from June 2012 through October 2015).

Between 2013 and 2014, Washington's labor market provided 81,000 new nonfarm jobs, an annual average increase of 2.7 percent. This October, businesses and government organizations across Washington supplied 3,204,200 nonfarm jobs (not seasonally adjusted), compared to 3,118,400 jobs in October 2014, a 2.8 percent year-over-year employment increase. The state’s economy has posted year-over-year nonfarm employment increases for the past 61 consecutive months (October 2010 through October 2015).

Analysis using QCEW data:

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is an industry classification system that groups businesses/organizations into categories or sectors based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged. There are 19 private sectors and three government sectors (for a total of 22 sectors) at the 2-digit NAICS code level, within each county-level economy. One can observe much about the structure of a county’s economy by quantifying and comparing the number of jobs and the percentage of jobs in these sectors by using annual average Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) data. The most recent average annual employment data available for Chelan County and for Douglas County are for 2014 and these data show:

The top five Chelan County sectors in 2014 in terms of employment were:

Sector Number of jobs Share of employment
1. Agriculture, forestry and fishing 9,962 24.1%
2. Health services 5,602 13.5%
3. Local government 4,766 11.5%
4. Retail trade 4,379 10.6%
5. Accommodation and food services 4,097 9.9%
Total covered employment 41,345 100%
All other industries 12,539 30.3%

Chelan County’s covered employment of 41,345 in 2014 was nearly four times larger than neighboring Douglas County’s covered employment of 11,384 jobs. More than two-thirds of all jobs in Chelan County were in five, two-digit NAICS industries or sectors (i.e., agriculture, health services, local government, retail trade and accommodation and food services) indicating that this is not a tremendously diverse economy.

A comparison of the top five sectors that provided the most jobs in Chelan County in 2014 with the sectors that produced the highest payrolls follows:

  • Agriculture provided 24.1 percent of all jobs countywide, but supplied only 15.4 percent of total wage income. Why? Many jobs in agriculture are seasonal.
  • Conversely, health services tallied 13.5 percent of total covered employment, but accounted for 20.5 percent of total wage income – indicating it is a relatively “good paying” industry.
  • The local retail trade sector accounted for 10.6 percent of all jobs in the County, but only 7.8 percent of total wage income.
  • Accommodation and food services (primarily hotels and restaurants) accounted for 9.9 percent of all jobs in Chelan County, but only 4.8 percent of total wage income, a good indicator that many of these jobs are part-time.
  • Although wholesale trade is not shown on the above table (it ranked as the sixth-largest job provider in Chelan County in 2014) it was the fifth-largest wage provider countywide (see the “Wages and income” section, below). The lion’s share of jobs in Chelan County’s wholesale trade industry are at fresh-fruit packinghouses.

The top five Douglas County sectors in 2014 in terms of employment were:

Sector Number of jobs Share of employment
1. Agriculture, forestry and fishing 3,258 28.6%
2. Local government 1,746 15.3%
3. Retail trade 1,366 12.0%
4. Health services 878 7.7%
5. Accommodation and food services 667 5.9%
Total covered employment 11,384 100%
All other industries 3,469 30.5%

Douglas County’s covered employment of 11,384 in 2014 was slightly more than one-quarter the size of Chelan County’s covered employment of 41,345 jobs. More than two-thirds of all jobs in Douglas County were in five, two-digit NAICS industries or sectors (i.e., agriculture, local government, retail trade, health services and accommodation and food services) indicating that this is not a tremendously diverse economy.

A comparison of the top five sectors that provided the most jobs in Douglas County in 2014 with the sectors that produced the highest payrolls follows:

  • Agriculture provided 28.6 percent of all jobs countywide, but supplied only 18.7 percent of total wage income (see the “Wages and income” section, below). Why? Many jobs in agriculture are seasonal.
  • Conversely, local government tallied 15.3 percent of total covered employment, but accounted for 23.1 percent of total wage income – indicating it is a relatively “good paying” industry.
  • The local retail trade sector accounted for 12.0 percent of all jobs in the County, but only 10.5 percent of total wage income.
  • Accommodation and food services (primarily hotels and restaurants) accounted for 5.9 percent of all jobs in Douglas County, but only 2.6 percent of total wage income, a good indicator that many of these jobs are part-time.

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 is presented by place of work, not place of residence. Some highlights:

Chelan County – 2014

  • The county’s largest jobholder age group was the 55+ year-olds, accounting for 26.0 percent of the workforce. This group was closely followed by the 45 to 54 year-olds, accounting for 21.8 percent of the workforce.
  • Men held 50.5 percent and women held 49.5 percent of all jobs in Chelan County.
    • Male-dominated industries included construction (85.2 percent), utilities (73.8 percent) and manufacturing (72.2 percent).
    • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (77.1 percent), finance and insurance (74.9 percent) and educational services (66.8 percent).

Douglas County – 2014

  • The county’s largest jobholder age group was the 55+ year-olds with 25.5 percent of the workforce. This category was closely followed by the 45 to 54 year-olds with 21.8 percent of the workforce.
  • Men held 52.9 percent and women held 47.1 of all jobs in Douglas County.
    • Male-dominated industries included construction (82.4 percent), utilities (76.1 percent) and manufacturing (70.5 percent).
    • Female-dominated industries included health care and social assistance (80.9 percent), finance and insurance (75.4 percent) and educational services (70.7 percent).
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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)

The total covered payroll in 2014 in Chelan County was approximately $1.48 billion. The average annual wage was $35,912 or 65.3 percent of the state average of $55,003.

The top five Chelan County industries in 2014 in terms of payrolls were:

Sector Payroll Share of payrolls
1. Health services $304,232,620 20.5%
2. Local government $234,376,378 15.8%
3. Agriculture, forestry and fishing $228,904,393 15.4%
4. Retail trade $115,390,841 7.8%
5. Wholesale trade $103,679,515 7.0%
Total covered payrolls $1,484,761,635 100%
All other industries $498,177,888 33.6%

In 2014, QCEW data showed that Chelan County’s workers received $1.48 billion in wages. Approximately two-thirds of all wage income occurred in five, two-digit NAICS industries or sectors (i.e., health services, local government, agriculture, retail trade and wholesale trade).

Although agriculture was clearly the top job provider in Chelan County in 2014, with 24.1 percent of total covered employment; private health services provided a $304.2 million payroll, ranking this industry first out of 22 industries/categories in wages and accounting for 20.5 percent of all earned wage income countywide. More than one out of every five dollars earned in Chelan County, is earned in health services (i.e., at a doctor/dentist’s office, in a hospital, nursing home, vocational rehab facility, etc.).

The total covered payroll in 2014 in Douglas County was approximately $358.3 million. The average annual wage was $31,475 or 57.2 percent of the state average of $55,003.

The top five Douglas County industries in 2014 in terms of payrolls were:

Sector Payroll Share of payrolls
1. Local government $82,701,979 23.1%
2. Agriculture, forestry and fishing $67,090,771 18.7%
3. Retail trade $37,521,971 10.5%
4. Health services $20,976,750 5.9%
5. Manufacturing $19,956,639 5.6%
Total covered payrolls $358,312,728 100%
All other industries $130,064,618 36.3%

In 2014, QCEW data showed that Douglas County’s labor market provided $358.3 million in wages. Nearly two-thirds of all wage income occurred in five, two-digit NAICS industries or sectors (i.e., local government, agriculture, retail trade, health services and manufacturing).

Although agriculture was clearly the top job provider in Douglas County in 2014, with 28.6 percent of total covered employment; local government provided $82.7 million in payroll, ranking this industry first out of 22 industries/categories in wages and accounting for 23.1 percent of all earned wage income countywide. Almost one in every four dollars earned in Douglas County, is earned in a local government organization (i.e., local public schools, public utility districts, police and fire departments, etc.).

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.

According to U.S. Census QuickFacts, in 2014 Chelan County’s per capita income was $25,619 and Douglas County’s was $23,116. Washington state was $31,233 and the nation was $28,555.

QuickFacts also reported median household income for the period 2010 to 2014 (in 2014 dollars) was $50,876 for Chelan County and at $53,235 for Douglas County compared to the state at $60,294 and the nation at $53,482.

Chelan County’s poverty rate was 16.0 percent and Douglas County’s was 14.4 percent over the period 2010 to 2014. In comparison, Washington state’s rate was 13.2 percent and the nation’s rate was 14.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.

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Population

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Chelan County’s population in 2014 was 74,588, growing 2.9 percent from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014. The pace of growth in the county’s population was less robust than the state’s 5.0 percent growth rate from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014. The largest city in Chelan County is Wenatchee. Other notable cities are Cashmere and Chelan.

Douglas County’s population in 2014 was 39,804, growing 3.6 percent from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014. The county’s growth rate was slower than the state’s 5.0-percent growth rate during this timeframe. The largest city in Douglas County is East Wenatchee. Other noteworthy cities in Douglas County are Bridgeport and Waterville.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Chelan County Douglas County Washington state
Population 2014 74,588 39,804 7,061,530
Population 2010 72,456 38,431 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 2.9% 3.6% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

The percent of the population age 65 and older in Chelan County as of July 1, 2014 was 17.5 percent and in Douglas County was 15.9 percent. Both counties tallied a greater proportion of residents aged 65 and up versus Washington state (14.1 percent) and the nation (14.5 percent).

As of July 1, 2014, Chelan County’s (24.2 percent) and Douglas County’s (26.2 percent) shares of the population under 18 years of age were also larger than that of the state at 22.7 percent and the U.S. at 23.1 percent, respectively.

The population under the age of 5 years was higher in Chelan County at 6.8 percent and in Douglas County at 6.9 percent that that of the state at 6.3 percent, and the nation at 6.2 percent (as of July 1, 2014).

Chelan County was 50.1 percent female and Douglas County was 49.6 percent female in 2014. The state’s ratio was 50.0 percent while the U.S. share was 50.8 percent.

Chelan and Douglas counties each recorded over one-fourth of their total populations in 2014 as Hispanic or Latino. These two counties each had more than double the population share of Hispanics, at 27.4 percent of the population in Chelan County and 30.4 percent in Douglas County in 2014, than did the state at 12.2 percent and the nation at 17.4 percent.

Demographics

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Chelan County Douglas County Washington state
Population by age as of July 1, 2014
Under 5 years old 5.8% 6.9% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 24.2% 26.2% 22.7%
65 years and older 17.5% 15.9% 14.1%
Females, 2014 50.1% 49.6% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 93.8% 93.7% 80.7%
Black 0.8% 0.8% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.8% 2.0% 1.9%
Asian 1.2% 1.1% 8.2%
Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 0.2% 0.2% 0.7%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 27.4% 30.4% 12.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

According to the 2010-14 American Community Survey (ACS) a lower percentage of adults age 25 years and older in Chelan and Douglas counties were a high school graduate or higher than those in the state (90.2 percent) or in the nation (86.3 percent). In Chelan County, 84.0 percent of adults 25 years or older and in Douglas County only 80.1 percent of their adults over 25 years of age, held a high school or a more advanced degree.

Correspondingly, there were fewer college graduates in these counties compared to the state and nation. In Chelan County, only 24.0 percent of residents age 25 and older held a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Douglas County, the number was 17.3 percent. These figures compare to 32.3 percent in Washington state and 29.3 percent across the nation.

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