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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 (62.9) in 2010.

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 onto 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 irrigation system. 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, 2010 62.9 15



Local population growth continues to drive demand for more educational services as well as healthcare. The good news is that the housing market in the county is stable, with growing housing inventories and affordable prices. According to Washington state nonfarm projections, the Tri-Cities (which included both Benton and Franklin Counties) are expected to be fastest growing area in the state through 2022, but remain 1.2 percent below growth in the 2000 to 2010 period.

In the short run, educations and health services are expected to lead the way in annual job growth at 2.8 percent through 2014. In response to manufacturing in the area, agriculture, wholesale trade (2.5 percent growth) along with transportation and warehousing industries (1.6 percent growth) will be expanding as well. The leisure and hospitality industry in the county is expanding, projected to add jobs at a rate of 2.0 percent a year through 2017.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In 2013, the county labor force was estimated at 37,390, about 1.7 percent less than in 2012. Franklin County unemployment rate was at 9.3 percent in 2013 which is 0.1 percent lower than in 2012.

For the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA that contains both Benton and Franklin counties), the July 2014 preliminary unemployment rate was 5.7 percent, down by 2.4 percent from 8.1 percent in July 2013.

Preliminary July 2014 estimates for the combined counties show that the total civilian labor force was up by 1.2 percent, from 131,030 in July 2014 to 132,600 in July 2014. The number of employed residents was 125,100 in July 2014, up by 3.9 percent from 120,430 in July 2013. At the same time the number of unemployed workers decreased by 29.2 percent from 10,600 in July 2013 to 7,500 in July 2014.


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 31,140 in 2013, which had grown by 1.7 percent or 531 jobs since 2012. The five-year average annual growth rate of Franklin County covered employment was 2.3 percent. The average annual wage for covered employment in Franklin County was $35,329 in 2013.

In 2013, according to the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, there were 2,892 establishments in Franklin County, an increase of 7.7 percent, or 206 new establishments over the year. Private establishments provided about 25,323 jobs or 81.3 percent of the total in 2013 and public administration provided 5,817 jobs or 18.7 percent of the total in 2013.

Goods-producing industries, which include natural resources, mining, construction and manufacturing, increased in employment from 2012 to 2013 by 1.2 percent, or 133 jobs. Average monthly employment in 2013 was 11,201 workers and annual wages totaled $354.7 million, which translates to a $31,668 average annual wage for goods-producing workers.

  • Manufacturing increased employment over the year by 2.8 percent. Manufacturing jobs totaled 3,224 in 2013, with an average annual pay of $37,501. Manufacturing represented about 10.2 percent of total covered employment.
    • Nondurable goods, which include food, beverage and chemical manufacturing, were 84.3 percent of manufacturing.
    • Durable goods, which include miscellaneous fabricated metal and transportation equipment manufacturing, were 15.7 percent of manufacturing.
  • Construction accounted for 5.2 percent of the average annual employment in the county with 1,618 jobs.
    • The average annual wage in construction was $45,321 in 2013.
    • Over the year the construction sector increased by 10.2 percent or 150 jobs.
  • Agriculture is one of the base industries in the area, representing 20.4 percent of total employment. It is, however, highly seasonal and volatile from year to year.
    • Average annual employment in agriculture in 2013 was 6,359, down by 1.6 percent from 2012.
    • The average annual wage in agriculture was $25,237, mainly due to the seasonality of agricultural activities.
    • Crop production represented 70.7 percent of agriculture employment, which was largely in non-citrus fruit farming, including apple orchards, grape vineyards and other produce.
    • Support activities shared 20.4 percent of employment, which included post-harvest crop activity.

Service-providing industries had a 64.0 percent share of Franklin County’s total employment. There was an average of 19,939 jobs in this industry, which paid an average annual wage of $37,386 in 2013. Over the year, service-providing industries increased by 2.0 percent, or 398 jobs.

  • Retail trade was 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 was a very stable industry and in 2013 this industry had an average of 2,892 jobs, which paid an average annual wage of $31,572.
  • Healthcare and social assistance employment in the private sector was 1,844 jobs, which represented about 5.9 percent of total employment in 2013. The average annual wage in this industry was $42,413.
  • Public administration was the largest service-providing industry in Franklin County with 18.7 percent share of total employment. This industry had an average annual employment of 5,817 in 2013. It paid an average annual wage of $45,031. 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 2012, the largest share of employment was held by 25 to 34 year-olds at 22.8 percent, which is close to the state’s figure of 22.5 percent. The age group 55 years old and older had 21.5 percent share of employment, which is followed by 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 years olds with 20.4 percent share of employment in the county.
  • The county’s jobholders were 53.8 percent male and 46.2 percent female.
    • Male-dominated industries included mining (91.1 percent), construction (80.0 percent), transportation and warehousing (80.0 percent), wholesale trade (78.3 percent), utilities (73.8 percent) and real estate and rental and leasing (72.6 percent).
    • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (78.8 percent), finance and insurance (74.4 percent) and educational services (70.0 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, there were 31,140 jobs in Franklin County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $1.10 billion.

The average annual wage was $35,329, well below the state’s average annual wage of $53,029. The median hourly wage in 2012 was $15.19, below the state’s median hourly wage of $21.64.

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, Franklin County’s personal income was $2.6 million, which translates into $30,169 per capita personal income. Franklin County’s per capita personal income was 34.5 percent less than the state ($46,045) and 31.0 percent less than the nation ($43,735).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $51,770 in the period 2008 to 2012. The county’s median was less than that of the state ($59,374) during the same period.

Franklin County’s poverty rate of 21.5 percent was higher than Washington state’s rate of 12.9 percent and the nation’s rate of 14.9 percent in the period 2008 to 2012, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

In 2013, Franklin County’s population was 86,638. Over the decade, Franklin County more than doubled with a 75.6 percent growth. In comparison, the state grew by 18.3 percent from 2000 to 2013.

The largest city in Franklin County is Pasco, the county seat, with a population of 67,599 in 2013.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County Washington state
Population 2013 86,638 6,971,406
Population 2000 49,347 5,894,121
Percent change, 2000 to 2013 75.6% 18.3%

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 (33.7 percent) was under 18 years of age compared to the state (22.9 percent) in 2013.
  • Residents under the age of 5 years old made up 10.2 percent of the county’s total population compared to 6.4 percent in the state in 2013.
  • In 2013, Franklin County’s population 65 years and older made up 7.7 percent of the total compared to 13.6 percent of the state’s population.

The gender split in the county was 47.8 percent female compared to 50.0 percent in the state in 2013.

Franklin County is the first county in the region to have a majority of Hispanics in its population. The population in 2013 in Franklin County was 42.6 percent white alone and not Hispanic compared to 71.0 percent in the state. Hispanics or Latinos were 51.4 percent of the population compared with 11.9 percent in the state.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County Washington state
Population by age, 2013
Under 5 years old 10.2% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 33.7% 22.9%
65 years and older 7.7% 13.6%
Females, 2013 47.8% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 91.1% 81.2%
Black 2.6% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.4% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 2.5% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 51.4% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

High school graduates among Franklin County’s population 25 years and older were 69.6 percent, lower than the state (90.0 percent) over the period 2008 to 2012.

Those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 14.8 percent of Franklin County residents age 25 and older compared to 31.6 percent of state residents over the same period.