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Franklin County Profile

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


Regional context

Franklin County, named for Benjamin Franklin, was created from Whitman County in 1883. The county is located in southeastern Washington at the convergence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. The Columbia River forms its western border and the Snake River forms its southern and eastern borders. Adams County is to its north. The railroads secured the county’s future as towns grew up around its railroad stations. Ranching and farming have continued to be the economic mainstay of Franklin County. It ranked 27th in the state in terms of land area and 15th in the state in persons per square mile (66.42) in 2012.

Local economy

Native Americans were the first people who inhabited this area, hunting game and fishing salmon. In the 1850s, white prospectors traveled through the area to the gold rush in British Columbia. Some stayed to raise sheep and plant orchards. The 1855 treaty agreements resulted in the native people ceding their lands to the United States and moving to reservations.

In the 1800s, cattle and horse ranches dominated much of the northern county while orchards flourished elsewhere. With the coming of the railroad, settlements started at the mouth of the Snake River. Pasco was connected to Kennewick through ferry-operated services and steamboats, which ended in 1887 when the first railroad bridge connected Pasco to Kennewick. The railroad furthered development throughout the 1900s. There were settlements of Chinese who worked for the railroad. Some of the Chinese panned gold and operated businesses in the rail towns.

There was unremarkable growth until World War II when the U.S. Army-Air Force Base moved to Pasco, and the Hanford project moved to Richland. In 1948, the first farm received water from the Grand Coulee Dam. Manufacturing and storage facilities, including ice houses and fruit-packing facilities, followed.

The 1990s and 2000s brought increasing industrial diversity with continued agriculture and food manufacturing as its economic base. The economic downturn, however, did not spare Franklin County. The county’s rate of unemployment has risen, and the length of joblessness has increased. Construction, real estate and rental and leasing were the industries that lost the most employment during the recession. Industries that are creating stability in the area include food manufacturing, agriculture and private and public educational and healthcare services.

Franklin County became the first Hispanic-majority county in the Pacific Northwest. It is also one of the region’s fastest growing counties.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 1,242.17 7
Persons per square mile, 2012 66.4 15



The downsizing of employment at Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been felt throughout the region, however, its relative impacts have decreased over the years as the local community is diversifying and increasing its economic base in other industries. Combination of industries, agriculture and food processing, education and healthcare services, retail trade and food services, have helped lessen the impact of the job loss in professional and business services.

Local population growth continues to drive demand for more educational services as well as healthcare, with just over 0.7 percent growth over the year. This marks the slowest growth in these two industries since 2005; with previous five year average annual growth of 4.3 percent. The slowdown seen in education and healthcare industries can largely be attributed to the national, state and local budget cuts and re-allocations.

The good news is that the housing market here is stable with growing housing inventories, and affordable prices. The national and state housing sectors are expanding and growing, which is expected to drive economic growth even in the local area as consumer confidence in buying and selling homes increase. According to Washington state nonfarm projections, Tri-Cities (which included both Benton and Franklin Counties) are expected to be fastest growing area in the state through 2020, but it will be expected to be 1.2 percent points below that of the 2000 to 2010 period.

In the short run, durable goods manufacturing and healthcare and social assistance are expected to lead the way in annual growth. In response to manufacturing growth in the area, agriculture, wholesale trade along with transportation and warehousing industries will be expanding as well.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In 2012, total county labor force was estimated at 37,110, about 0.8 percent less than in 2011. Franklin County unemployment rate was at 9.4 percent in 2012 which is 0.6 percent higher than in 2011. Benton County unemployment statistics are headed different directions from that of the state or the nation because of Hanford layoffs due to ending of stimulus funds and completion of projects.

For the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA that contains both Benton and Franklin counties), the May 2013 preliminary unemployment rate was 8.7 percent, down from 8.8 percent in May 2012.

Preliminary May 2013 estimates for the combined counties show that the total civilian labor force was down by 1.7 percent, from 133,560 in May 2012 to 131,310 in May 2013. The number of employed residents was 119,940 in May 2013, down 1.6 percent from 121,860 in May 2012. At the same time the number of unemployed workers decreased by 2.8 percent from 11,700 in May 2012 to 11,370 in May 2013.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Total covered employment in Franklin County was 30,608 in 2012, which has grown by 3.3 percent or 967 jobs since 2011. The five-year average annual growth of Franklin County covered employment was 3.8 percent. Average annual wage for covered employment in Franklin County was $34,358 in 2012, which is up by 2.1 percent from 2011 average annual wage of $33,651.

In 2012, according to the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, there were 2,760 total establishments in Franklin County with an increase of 5.2 percent or 136 new establishments over the year. Private establishments provided about 24,810 jobs or 81.1 percent of the total in 2012, and public administration provided 5,798 jobs or 18.9 percent of the total in 2012.

Goods-producing industries, which include natural resources, mining, construction and manufacturing, increased in employment from 2011 to 2012 by 4.9 percent or by 520 jobs. Average monthly employment in 2012 was 11,093 workers and annual wages totaled $337.6 million, which translates to $30,433 average annual wage for goods-producing workers.

  • Manufacturing increased employment over the year, decreased by 1.3 percent. Manufacturing jobs were at 3,136 in 2012, with average annual pay of $36,201 and a five-year employment annual average growth rate of 9.5 percent. Manufacturing represented about 10.2 percent of total covered employment.
    • Nondurable goods, which includes food, beverage and chemical manufacturing, was 84.3 percent of manufacturing.
    • Durable goods, which includes miscellaneous fabricated metal and transportation equipment manufacturing, was 15.7 percent of manufacturing.
  • Construction accounted for 4.8 percent of the total average annual employment in the county with 1,461 jobs.
    • The average annual wage in construction was $47,172 in 2012.
    • Since 2007, construction employment decreased on average by 1.5 percent annually, showing volatility in housing demand and incentives over the past five years.
  • Agriculture is one of the base industries in the area, representing 21.1 percent of total employment. It is, however, highly seasonal and volatile from year to year.
    • Average annual employment in agriculture in 2012 was 6,466, up by 10.8 percent from 2011. Nonetheless, agriculture has shown a 4.3 percent average annual growth rate over the past five years.
    • The average annual wage in agriculture was at $23,785, mainly due to the seasonality of agricultural activities.
    • Crop production represents 70.7 percent of total agriculture, which is largely in non-citrus fruit farming, including apple orchards, grape vineyards and other produce.
    • Support activities shared 20.4 percent of employment, which includes post-harvest crop activity.
    • .

Service-providing industries have a 63.8 percent share of Franklin County’s total employment. There was an average of 19,518, which paid an average annual wage of $36,424 in 2012. Over the year, service-providing industries increased by 2.4 percent or by 456 jobs.

  • Retail trade is the largest employing private service industry in Franklin County, representing 9.3 percent of total employment and third largest of all other industries after agriculture and manufacturing. Retail trade is a very stable industry with a five-year average annual growth of 2.9 percent. In 2012, this industry had an average of 2,901 jobs, which paid an average annual wage of $30,372.
  • Healthcare and social assistance employment in the private sector was 11,894 jobs, which represented about 6.2 percent of total employment in 2012. The average annual wage in this industry was $40,372.
  • Public administration is the largest service-providing industry in Franklin County with 18.9 percent share of total employment. This industry had an average annual employment of 5,798 in 2012. It paid an average annual wage of $43,592. The largest share of employment in this industry is in local school administration, providing services to youth.

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 2011, the largest share of employment was held by 25 to 34 year-olds at 22.6 percent, which is close to the state’s figure of 22.4. The age group of 45 to 54 year-olds had a 20.9 percent share of employment, followed by those 55 years old and older at 21.3 percent.
  • The county’s employment showed male workers at 53.8 percent and females at 46.2 percent.
    • Male-dominated industries included construction (79.8 percent), transportation and warehousing (78.5 percent), wholesale trade (77.6 percent), utilities (73.0 percent), and real estate and rental and leasing (70.7 percent).
    • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (80.1 percent), finance and insurance (73.0 percent) and educational services (70.6 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 30,608 jobs in Franklin County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $1.05 billion.

The average annual wage was $34,358, well below the state’s average annual wage of $51,964. The median hourly wage in 2011 was $15.38, below the state’s median hourly wage of $21.59.

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, Franklin County’s personal income was $2.4 million, which translates into $29,711 per capita personal income. Franklin County’s per capita personal income was 32.3 percent less than the state ($43,878) and 28.9 percent less than the nation ($41,560).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $50,731 in the period 2007 to 2011. The county’s median was less than that of the state ($57,244) and of the nation (($58,890) during the same period.

Franklin County’s poverty rate of 20.9 percent was higher than Washington state’s rate of 12.5 percent and the nation’s rate of 14.3 percent in the period 2007 to 2011, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

In 2012, Franklin County’s population was 85,845. Over the decade, Franklin County almost doubled with a 74.0 percent growth. In comparison, the state grew by 17.0 percent from 2000 to 2012.

The largest city in Franklin County is Pasco, the county seat, with a population of 62,670 in 2012.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County Washington state
Population 2012 85,845 6,897,012
Population 2000 49,347 5,894,121
Percent change, 2000 to 2010 74.0% 17.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County has a much younger population than does the state.

  • Over one-third of Franklin County’s population (34.1 percent) was under 18 years of age compared to the state (23.0 percent) in 2012.
  • Residents under the age of 5 years old made up 10.5 percent of the county’s total population compared to 6.4 percent in the state in 2012.
  • In 2012, Benton County’s population 65 years and older made up 7.4 percent of the total compared to 13.2 percent of the state’s population.

The county was 47.8 percent females compared to 50.1 percent in the state in 2012.

Franklin County is the first county in the region to have a majority of Hispanics in its population. The population in 2012 in Franklin County was 43.1 percent white compared to 71.6 percent in the state. Hispanics or Latinos were 50.9 percent of the population compared with 11.7 percent in the state.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County Washington state
Population by age, 2012
Under 5 years old 10.5% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 34.1% 23.0%
65 years and older 7.4% 13.2%
Females, 2012 47.8% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White 91.3% 81.6%
Black 2.6% 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.3% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 2.5% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 50.9% 11.7%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

High school graduates among Franklin County’s population 25 years and older was 68.8 percent, lower than the state (89.8 percent) over the period 2007 to 2011.

Those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 15.1 percent of Franklin County residents age 25 and older compared to 31.4 percent of state residents over the same period.