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Garfield County Profile


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

Overview

Regional context

Garfield County was formed from the eastern portion of Columbia County by an act of the Washington Territorial Legislature in 1881. Garfield County is bordered by Whitman County on the north, Asotin County on the east, Columbia County on the west and on the south by Wallowa County, Oregon. The Snake River makes up its northern and northeastern borders and is an essential part of its economic existence.

Garfield County is the seventh-smallest county in the state, with only 710.5 square miles. Before white exploration and settlement, the semi-nomadic Nez Perce inhabited the area on both sides of the Nez Perce Trail as means of commerce, which was of strategic importance to the development of the region.

The establishment of the territory and the end of the Indian Wars resulted in an influx of white settlers into the county. Garfield County settlers came and started farming and ranching in the area. Later some settlers started communities in the Patah Creek area, today’s Pomeroy City, with the first known commercial establishment being a stage station and “eating house” (shaver). By 1875 there were an estimated 200 farms in the area which produced major crops of pears, wheat, blue grass and others. Garfield County is the least populated county in the state of Washington, ranking 39th among 39 Washington counties, with population of 2,256 people in 2013, or 3.2 per square mile.

Local economy

The Garfield County workforce is employed primarily in agriculture or government services. Farmland occupies over two-thirds of the county’s total land usage. The main crop is dry land wheat. The total value of agricultural sales tends to equal the total wages earned for the county.

As of the 2012 Agricultural Census, the county had 211 farms with an average size of 1,462 acres. The market value of agricultural products sold was $48,208 million, with 92 percent of that being from crop sales. About 37 percent of farms in Garfield County have a value of crop sales over $100,000.

Demographics also play a role in Garfield County’s economy as a high proportion of elderly residents continue to increase demand for local health care services, which in this county are mostly provided by the government sector. Healthcare and social services are projected to grow at a faster than average rate.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Garfield County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 710.69 33
Persons per square mile, 2010 3.2 39

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Outlook

Garfield County’s employment has fluctuated up and down in the past ten years. Garfield County covered employment continues its decline with the new 14 year low of 748 jobs. This marks a ten year average annual decline of 1.7 percent since 2004. Since the recession of 2007, covered employment has not recovered and continues its downward trend, which puts a lot of strain on economic wellbeing of this small rural county.

There were some changes with the Lower Snake Wind Project, which increased the overall number of jobs in the community. Agriculture and wholesale trade will continue to be the cluster that provides the most private sector jobs. Major agricultural commodities will remain in production as long as there is demand and proper weather conditions.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In 2014, the county labor force was estimated at 961, marking a four year downward trend. Unemployment was down to 7.0 percent from 7.5 percent in 2013. Yearly averages in the labor force show some volatility, which is associated with the government and seasonal agricultural economic base.

The average annual unemployment rate in Garfield County in 2008 was the lowest in 14 years, at 4.6 percent before it peaked again in 2010 at 8.1 percent. The unemployment rate fluctuates throughout the year, reflecting the seasonal employment, with lows in September or October each year and peaks in January or February.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Garfield County’s average covered employment was 720 in 2014, a 1.4 decrease over the year. This is the lowest that it has experienced since 2000, reflecting an average annual decrease of 1.7 percent for the past 10 years. Almost all nonfarm employment in Garfield County is in service providing industries.

  • Service-providing industries averaged 720 jobs in 2014, down from 730 in 2013.
  • Garfield County service-providing employment is 68.0 government, 22.2 percent in trade, transportation and utilities and 27.8 percent in information and financial activities.
  • Government employment averaged 490 in 2014, which was down from 510 in 2012.

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:

The largest jobholder group in Garfield County in 2013 was the 55 and over age group with 32.2 percent of the workforce. Over the years the workforce has aged and now 48.1 percent of the workforce is between 45 and 64 years old.

The Garfield County workforce was mostly male in 2013; 52.3 percent of all industry jobs were held by men and 47.7 percent were held by women. Industry differences are discussed below:

  • Male-dominated industries included agriculture (93.2 percent), wholesale trade (78.8 percent), transportation and warehousing (71.4 percent) and public administration (57.9 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included accommodation and food services (94.1 percent), other services (77.5 percent), health care (76.1 percent), finance and insurance (64.1 percent) and retail trade (61.8 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)

In 2014, Garfield County had 748 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $30.3 million.

The county annual average wage was $40,464 in 2014, which is well below the state’s average annual wage of $54,829. In 2014, Garfield County was ranked 15th in the state for average annual wages among 39 counties.

The Garfield County median hourly wage was $17.99 in 2013, which was well below the state’s median hourly wage of $22.09.

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 2013 the per capita income in Garfield County was $36,332, which decreased by 6.2 percent from 2012 income of $38,743. Nonetheless, income was well below the state’s per capita income of $47,717 according to Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Median household income over the period 2009 to 2013 was $51,548, well below the state’s $59,478, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.

Over the period 2009 to 2013, 12.1 percent of the population was living below the poverty level in Garfield County, which is up from the 9.7 percent 2012 estimate. This compares to 13.4 percent of the state and 15.4 percent of the nation.

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Population

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

According to the Census estimates for 2014, Garfield County’s population was 2,215. Garfield County’s population increased by 1.2 percent from 2012 to 2013. The population is expected to remain stable or show slight growth.

The Garfield County seat and the largest city is Pomeroy with population of 1,395 in 2014. The second notable city is Pataha City.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Garfield County Washington state
Population 2014 2,215 7,061,530
Population 2010 2,266 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 -2.3% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey)

Garfield County has a large retirement age community with 24.6 percent of the population being 65 years of age or older. Females are older than males with a 50.6 compared to a 48.7 median age.

  • Garfield County’s population age 65 and older was 24.6 percent in 2014 compared to the state’s 14.1 percent.
  • Those under 18 years of age made up 19.9 percent in 2014 compared to the state’s 22.7 percent.
  • The youngest age group, those under 5 years of age, was 4.3 percent in 2014, compared to the state’s 6.3 percent.

Females made up 50.9 percent of the county’s population, which is slightly above the state’s 50.0 percent.

Diversity in the county shows that 95.4 percent of residents are white, with 4.5 percent of Hispanic or Latino origin, compared to the state’s 81.2 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively.

Demographics

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey)

Garfield County Washington state
Population by age, 2014    
Under 5 years old 4.3% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 19.9% 22.7%
65 years and older 24.6% 14.1%
Females, 2014 50.9% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 95.4% 81.2%
Black 0.1% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 0.4% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.8% 8.9%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 4.5% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Over the period 2009 to 2013, 96.6 percent of individuals age 25 and older were high school graduates, which is higher than that of Washington state (90.0 percent).

Over the same period, it’s estimated that 22.7 percent of people in Garfield County 25 and older have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher. This figure does not compare favorably with the state (31.9 percent).

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