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Ferry County Profile

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


Regional context

Ferry County, named for Governor Ferry, was carved out of Stevens County in 1899. Ferry County is bordered to its north by British Columbia and Lincoln County to its south. Okanogan County lies to the west and Stevens County to the east. Ferry County is sparsely populated, and can be considered a frontier economy. This rural economy is defined by its limited transportation and its dependence on resource extraction. The Colville Confederated Tribe owns the southern portion of the county and the northern portion is largely part of the Colville National Forest. Less than 18 percent of the land in Ferry County is privately owned.

Republic, the county seat, is the largest city in Ferry County. Ferry County ranks ninth in the state in terms of land area and 38th in the state for population density.

Local economy

Ferry County was settled after the discovery of gold in the 1850s. As this gold rush came to an end around 1900, lumber began to play a major role in Ferry County’s early history. In 1907, President Roosevelt created a system of national forests. The newly recognized Colville National Forest made up the northern half of Ferry County. Ferry County remained remote and inaccessible until roads and communication systems were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Lake Roosevelt was also developed in the 1930s, which spurred employment, electricity, irrigation, but also dramatically changed the shoreline of the Columbia River and its natural salmon runs.

Ferry County, and particularly the town of Republic, has relied on mining for decades. The Republic mines were the major producers of gold in the state for many years in the 20th century.

Today, the Ferry County economy, based on resource extraction, remains seasonal. In 2008, the newly opened Buckhorn Mountain Gold Mine created about 180 jobs. This mine is expected to have a life of about seven years. Overall, increased economic activity from this mine can be felt across the Ferry County economy with noticeable increases in retail sales, employment and construction.

Since 2009, employment growth has been slightly negative. Losses in Government employment account for most of this decline.

Major industry sectors in Ferry County are mining, resource extraction and government. Of these, government employment continues to face looming budget reductions.

Ferry County tends to have one of the highest unemployment rates and lowest labor force participation rates of any county in Washington. The unemployment rate has remained higher than was normal for most of the prior decade, especially when compared to the state or the nation.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Ferry County Rank in state
Land area, 2010(square miles) 2,203.16 9
Persons per square mile, 2010 3.4 38



The economy of Ferry County has remained static with little change over time. The lack of economic growth is reflected in slow population growth, an older than average population, higher than average government employment and little or negative real employment growth. Even with the opening of a new gold mine in 2008, Ferry County continues to be plagued by limited transportation and little private land. These issues limit growth of resource extraction as well as overall economic activity. As the nation and state continue to recover from a painful and persistent recession, Ferry County is likely to continue to experience sluggish growth. A recovering housing market will have a positive impact on the northeast Washington economy. Gold prices continue to be high, encouraging further mining activities. It is likely that some government employment will weaken as budget reductions are made. Any reductions will create noticeable employment ripples in a county with over 50 percent of its jobs in government.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The civilian labor force for the first half of 2013 (2,780) was down compared to the first half of 2012 (2,850).

The preliminary county unemployment rate for the first two quarters of 2013 was 13.3 percent. In 2012 the rate was 14.5 percent for the same period. The unemployment rate peaked in 2010 at 14.5 percent.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Ferry County has just over 1,500 nonfarm jobs located in the county. Consequently, a large number (about 26.3 percent) of the employed residents work in jobs or for firms located outside the county. It is likely that tribal employment in the southern part of Ferry County affects the overall numbers as well.

Ferry County averaged 1,550 nonfarm jobs in 2012, down slightly from the 2011 total of 1,560. The small decrease is continuing into the first half of 2013 averaging 1,530.

  • Goods-producing employment is averaging 160 jobs in 2013, a decrease from the 2012 average of 190.
  • Service-providing employment averaged 1,370 jobs for the first 2 quarters of 2013. According to the most recent estimates, employment is still trending down.
  • Government employment averaged 960 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 are presented by place of work, not place of residence. Some highlights:

The largest jobholder age group in Ferry County in 2011 was the 55 and older group at 29.1 percent. This percentage was closely followed by jobholders aged 45 to 54, with 25.8 percent of the workforce.

In 2011, women held 49.6 percent and men held 50.4 percent of the jobs in Ferry County. There were substantial differences in gender dominance by industry.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (91.9 percent), Mining (88.4 percent) and Manufacturing (93.5 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (92.0 percent), healthcare and social assistance (66.7 percent) and accommodations and food service (77.6 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 2012, there were 1,603 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $57.6 million.

The 2012 average annual wage was $35,955, well below the state’s average annual wage of $51,964.

The median hourly wage in 2011 was $18.02, below the state’s median hourly wage of $21.59. The median hourly wage for the state less King County was $19.20.

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 2011, the per capita personal income was $26,353 in Ferry County, less than the state ($43,878) and the nation ($41,560). Ferry County has ranked 39th in the state in terms of per capital personal income for the past four years.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $35,684 in 2007 to 2011. The county’s median was less than the state ($58,890) and the nation ($52,762).

In the period 2007 to 2011, 19 percent of Ferry County’s population was living below the poverty level, higher than the state’s level of 11.3 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Ferry County’s population is estimated at 7,650 in 2013. It grew at a rate of 4 percent from 2000 to 2010 compared to the state’s growth rate of 14.1 percent.

The largest city in Ferry County is Republic (1,095 in 2013).

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Ferry County Washington state
Population 2010 7,551 6,724,540
Population 2000 7,260 5,894,121
Percent change, 2000 to 2010 4.0% 14.1%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Ferry County has an older population than does the state.

  • Comparing Ferry County’s older population to that of the state is telling. Those 65 and older made up 30.6 percent of Ferry County’s 2012 population compared to the state’s 19.1 percent.
  • Residents under 19 years of age made up 22.1 percent of Ferry County’s population compared to 25.7 percent for the state.
  • Those under five years old made up 4.7 percent of Ferry County’s population compared to 6.4 percent for the state.

Ferry County showed less diversity in 2010 than did the state in all racial/ethnic categories except American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Colville Confederated Tribe owns a significant portion of the county.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Ferry County Washington state
Population by age, 2012
0-4  years old 4.7% 6.4%
0-19 years old 22.1% 25.7%
60 years and older 30.6% 19.1%
Females, 2012 48.2% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White 75.0% 72.5%
Black 0.2% 3.4%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 16.1% 1.3%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 0.8% 7.7%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.4% 11.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Most of Ferry County residents age 25 and older (86.1 percent) were high school graduates, which compares with 89.7 percent of Washington state’s residents and 85.4 percent of U.S. residents over the period 2007 to 2011.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 15.5 percent of Ferry County residents age 25 and older compared to 31.4 percent of state residents and 28.2 percent of U.S. residents over the same period.