Skip Navigation

Home : Reports, data & tools : County Profiles : Chelan and Douglas Counties Profile


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 23.5 percent of total covered employment (in 2013), followed by private health services with 12.5 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 26.9 percent of total covered employment (in 2013) in that industry, followed by local government, with 16.0 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.

Top

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

Top

Outlook

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 40,800 jobs in 2008, then the recession hit. Total nonfarm employment dropped 3.7 percent in 2009, to 39,300. It also contracted in 2010, by 1.3 percent, to 38,800 jobs.

During 2011 the local labor market rebounded to 39,200 jobs, a 1.0 percent average annual upturn. This uptrend continued in 2012 with the number of local nonfarm jobs advancing to 39,500, a modest 0.8 percent increase. In 2013 employment in the two-county Wenatchee MSA posted a 2.3 percent growth rate as size of the economy grew to 40,400 nonfarm jobs, a 900 job over the year upturn.

Despite the rebounds in the local economy in 2011, 2012 and 2013, total nonfarm employment has not yet reached the 40,800 job nonfarm peak of 2008. The good news is that local nonfarm employment has posted year over year gains in each of the first nine months of 2014. In fact, The Wenatchee MSA's economy has posted year-over-year increases for the past 28 months (from June 2012 through September 2014). Hence, barring unforeseen events, it is almost certain that average annual employment in 2014 in the Wenatchee MSA will surpass this “peak” of 40,800 jobs registered during calendar year 2008.

Top

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 8.8 percent in 2010 before decreasing to 7.2 percent in 2013.

Between 2012 and 2013 in the Wenatchee MSA:

  • Not seasonally adjusted unemployment declined from 7.7 to 7.2 percent, a modest five-tenths of a percentage point contraction. In comparison, Washington state’s unemployment rate decreased one and one-tenth percentage points (from 8.1 percent in 2012 to 7.0 percent in 2013).
  • The average number of unemployed fell from 4,790 to 4,310, equating to 480 fewer residents out of work in this two-county area. However, the civilian labor force (CLF) shrank by 1,790, from 62,050 to 60,260 residents, a 2.9 percent decrease. This was not good economic news as it likely indicates that discouraged workers were staying out of the labor force in the two-county area in 2013. It could also indicate that more baby boomers retired (and hence dropped out of the labor force).
  • Although the Wenatchee MSA's CLF decreased 2.9 percent in 2013 and the local labor force continued to recede in each of the first six months of 2014, the CLF began to post year over year expansions in July, August and September 2014. Most recently, between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014, the CLF advanced 2.4 percent, from 62,880 to 64,390 residents (meaning that 1,510 more residents were in the local labor force) while the number of unemployed declined from 3,430 in September 2013 to 2,870 in September 2014 (meaning that 560 fewer residents were out of work). The result was that the Wenatchee MSA’s unemployment rate dropped by one percentage point between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014. This recent three-month trend of year over year expansions in the local labor force is good news for the local economy as it could indicate that residents who have been on the margins of the labor force have decided to “test the waters” and re-enter the job market.
Top

Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

Wenatchee MSA (Chelan and Douglas counties) was slow to react to the Great Recession and has been slow to recover. Nonfarm employment in the two-county area peaked at an average of 40,800 jobs in 2008, then the recession hit. Total nonfarm employment dropped 3.7 percent in 2009, to 39,300; and it continued to contract in 2010, by 1.3 percent, averaging 38,800 jobs.

During 2011 the local labor market rebounded to 39,200 jobs, a 1.0 percent average annual upturn. This uptrend continued in 2012 with the number of local nonfarm jobs advancing to 39,500, a modest 0.8 percent increase. In 2013 employment in the two-county Wenatchee MSA posted a 2.3 percent growth rate as size of the economy grew to 40,400 nonfarm jobs, a 900 job over the year upturn. Incidentally, the Wenatchee MSA's average annual increase of 2.3 percent during 2013 was identical to the job growth rate statewide during 2013.

Local employers provided 42,600 nonfarm jobs in September 2014, a 1,300 job and 3.1 percent expansion from the 41,300 recorded in September 2013. The Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has registered year-over-year employment increases for the past 28 months (from June 2012 through September 2014). In September 2014, businesses and government organizations across Washington supplied 3,094,200 nonfarm jobs (not seasonally adjusted), compared to 3,018,400 jobs in September 2013, a 2.5 percent year-over-year employment increase. The state’s economy has posted nonfarm employment increases for the past 48 consecutive months (October 2010 through September 2014).

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 county-level economic trends by analyzing absolute changes (in number of jobs) and relative changes (in percentage of jobs) in these sectors over given time period. If one analyzes employment changes in Chelan County and in Douglas County over the past ten years (2004-2013) using Washington State Employment Security Department’s annual average Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) data the following employment trends emerge for each of the two counties in the Wenatchee MSA, specifically:

  • In Chelan County, total covered employment increased from 36,409 in 2004 to 39,623 in 2013, a 3,214-job and 8.8 percent expansion during this period. Of the 22 NAICS sectors mentioned earlier, there were five major sectors/industries that accounted for over two-thirds all jobs countywide in 2004 and in 2013. There was no repositioning of the ranking of these “Top 5” sectors during this 10-year period. In 2013; agriculture provided 23. 5 percent, health services 12.5 percent, local government 11.8 percent, retail trade 10.8 percent and accommodation and food services 9.6 percent of total covered employment countywide. Hence, the Chelan County economy is not a tremendously diverse economy. A summary of employment changes within the “Top 5” sectors between 2004 and 2013 follows:
    • Agriculture rose by 12.5 percent (from 8,291 to 9,327 jobs).
    • Health services advanced by 13.2 percent (from 4,379 to 4,996 jobs).
    • Local government expanded by 8.5 percent (from 4,303 to 4,667 jobs).
    • Retail trade was the slowest growing “Top 5” sector with a lethargic growth rate of 0.1 percent (from 4,263 to 4,266 jobs).
    • Accommodation and food services was the fastest growing “Top 5” sector with a 14.0 percent jump in employment (from 3,343 to 3,810 jobs).
  • In Douglas County, total covered employment increased from 9,772 in 2004 to 10,926 in 2013, a 1,154-job and 11.8 percent expansion during these ten years. Douglas County’s job growth rate was a little more robust than neighboring Chelan County’s 8.8-percent job growth rate. Of the 22 major (2-Digit) NAICS sectors, there were five major sectors/industries that accounted for almost two-thirds all jobs countywide in 2004 and in 2013, just as in neighboring Chelan County. However, there was some repositioning in the rankings of these “Top 5” sectors in Douglas County during these 10 years. In 2013; agriculture provided 26.9 percent, local government 16.0 percent, retail trade 12.6 percent, health services 6.4 percent and accommodation and food services 5.8 percent of total covered employment countywide. Hence these were the “Top 5” Douglas County sectors/industries (from an employment perspective) in 2013. A summary of employment changes between 2004 and 2013 in these “Top 5” follows:
    • Agriculture rose by 4.8 percent (from 2,804 to 2,939 jobs).
    • Local government contracted 1.1 percent (from 1,766 to 1,746 jobs).
    • Retail trade had a strong 26.6 percent growth rate (from 1,085 to 1,374 jobs).
    • Health services was the fastest growing “Top 5” sector, surging by 43.1 percent (from 485 to 694 jobs). Health services climbed two notches from the sixth largest industry (from an employment perspective) in Douglas County in 2004 to the fourth largest industry/sector in 2013.
    • Accommodation and food services, primarily hotels and restaurants, rose 5.1 percent (604 to 635 jobs).
    • Douglas County’s construction sector plummeted by 27.1 percent (from 597 to 435 jobs) as this industry slipped two notches, from the fifth largest sector/industry in 2004 to the seventh largest in 2013.

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 – 2012

  • The county’s largest jobholder age group was the 55+ year-olds, accounting for 23.9 percent of the workforce. This group was closely followed by the 45 to 54 year-olds, accounting for 22.5 percent of the workforce.
  • Men held 49.4 percent and women held 50.6 percent of all jobs in Chelan County.
    • Male-dominated industries included mining (86.5 percent), construction (83.6 percent), utilities (74.8 percent) and manufacturing (73.2 percent).
    • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (78.2 percent), finance and insurance (76.2 percent) and educational services (67.9 percent).

Douglas County – 2012

  • The county’s largest jobholder age group was the 55+ year-olds with 23.6 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 51.6 percent and women held 48.4 of all jobs in Douglas County.
    • Male-dominated industries included construction (83.3 percent), utilities (77.3 percent) and manufacturing (75.9 percent).
    • Female-dominated industries included health care and social assistance (84.1 percent), finance and insurance (76.2 percent) and educational services (70.2 percent).
Top

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)

Chelan County averaged 39,623 jobs in 2013 covered by unemployment insurance with a total payroll of approximately $1.38 billion and an average annual wage of $34,851. In 2012, the median hourly wage (unadjusted for inflation) in Chelan County was $14.87.

Douglas County averaged 10,926 jobs in 2013 covered by unemployment insurance with a total payroll of approximately $350.7 million and an average annual wage of $32,101. In 2012, the median hourly wage (unadjusted for inflation) in Douglas County was $14.78.

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.

In 2012, Chelan County’s per capita personal income was $39,797 and Douglas County’s was $31,954. Washington state was $46,045 and the nation was $43,735.

The U.S. Census QuickFacts reported median household income for the period 2008 to 2012 at $50,582 for Chelan County and at $52,285 for Douglas County compared to the state at $59,374.

Chelan County’s poverty rate was 12.8 percent and Douglas County’s was 16.5 percent over the period 2008 to 2012. In comparison, Washington state’s rate was 12.9 percent and the nation’s rate was 14.9 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.

Top

Population

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Chelan County’s population in 2013 was 73,967, growing 2.1 percent from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013. The pace of growth in the county’s population was less robust than the state’s 3.7 percent growth rate from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013. The largest city in Chelan County is Wenatchee. Other notable cities are Cashmere and Chelan.

Douglas County’s population in 2013 was 39,481, growing 2.7 percent from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013. The county’s growth rate was slower than the state’s 3.7-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 2013 73,967 39,471 6,971,406
Population 2010 72,456 38,431 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 2.1% 2.7% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

The percent of the population age 65 and older in Chelan County was 17.0 percent and in Douglas County was 15.3 percent. Both counties share was higher than the state’s at 13.6 percent in 2013.

Chelan and Douglas counties’ shares of the population under 18 years of age were larger than that of the state at 24.4 percent and 26.6 percent, respectively in 2013. The state’s share of residents under age 18 was 22.9 percent.

The population under the age of 5 years was higher in Chelan County at 7.0 percent and in Douglas County at 7.0 percent that that of the state at 6.4 percent in 2013.

Chelan County was 50.1 percent female and Douglas County was 49.6 percent female in 2013. The state’s share was 50.0 percent.

Chelan and Douglas counties each recorded over one-fourth of their total populations in 2013 as Hispanic or Latino. These two counties each had more than double the population share of Hispanics, at 27.1 percent of the population in Chelan County and 30.1 percent in Douglas County in 2013, than did the state at 11.9 percent.

Demographics

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Chelan County Douglas County Washington state
Population by age, 2013
Under 5 years old 7.0% 7.0% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 24.4% 26.6% 22.9%
65 years and older 17.0% 15.3% 13.6%
Females, 2013 50.1% 49.6% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 93.9% 93.8% 81.2%
Black 0.9% 0.7% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.8% 2.0% 1.9%
Asian 1.1% 1.1% 7.9%
Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 0.2% 0.2% 0.7%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 27.1% 30.1% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

According to the 2008-12 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 (90.0 percent) or in the nation (85.7 percent). In Chelan County, 83.5 percent of adults 25 years or older and in Douglas County only 81.0 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 24.1 percent of residents age 25 and older held a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Douglas County, the number was 17.4 percent. These figures compare to 31.6 percent in Washington state and 28.5 percent across the nation.

Top