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Garfield County Profile

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


Regional context

Garfield County was created out of the Columbia County territory by an act of the Washington Territorial Legislature, and was established 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 has been an essential part of its economic existence for farm irrigation uses since its early years.

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 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. By 1875 there were an estimated 200 farms in the County which produced major crops of pears, wheat, blue grass and others.

Garfield County is the least populated county in Washington state, ranking 39th among 39 Washington counties, with a population of 3.2 persons per square mile or 2,228 in 2012.

Local economy

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

Demographics also play a role in Garfield County’s economy as its higher proportion of elderly residents increase the demand for local health care services, which in this county are mostly delivered through the government sector. Consequently, the healthcare and social services sector is projected to grow at a faster than average rate.


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



Garfield County’s employment has fluctuated somewhat in the past ten years, however in 2012 total employment hit a new low at 778 jobs. This tracks an average-annual decline of 1.0 percent since 2002. Overall, total employment has remained very stable with a few small declines or increases.

The long-term trend of moderate change may be altered by the Lower Snake River Wind Project, which is bringing more employment into the county. However, because of the nature of the work and the size of the project, there has been an influx of nonresidents coming from outside the county or region to work on this project. Ultimately, there should be a number of local jobs that will become permanent as the construction phase changes to the maintenance and operations phase.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The county labor force was estimated at 1,030 in 2012, about the same as in 2011. Unemployment was higher in 2012 at 7.8 percent compared to 7.4 percent in 2011. Yearly changes in the labor force show some volatility in the local employment market, however it is considered basically a stable labor force.

The average annual unemployment rate in Garfield County hit a low in 2008 of 4.6 percent before it peaked in 2010 at 8.1 percent. The unemployment rate fluctuates throughout the year, reflecting the seasonal component, with lows in September or October and peaks in January or February.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Garfield County total employment was 778 in 2012, with a 2.3 decreases over the year, reflecting recent decreases in service industries amid the post-recession economic slowdown. Average employment in 2012 was the lowest in the past ten years. An estimated 90.5 percent of nonfarm employment is in service providing industries.

  • Goods-producing employment averaged 74 jobs in 2012 and made 9.5% percent of total nonfarm employment.
  • Service-providing employment averaged 704 in 2012, down from 722 in 2011. Garfield County service-providing employment is 68.9 government, 23.4 percent transportation and utilities (mainly wholesale trade) and 2.6 percent information and financial activities.
  • Government employment averaged 485 in 2012, which was up from 2011 by 1.3 percent.

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 2011 was the 55 and over age group comprising 30.1 percent of the workforce, followed by the 45 to 54 year-olds with 25.5 percent. They were closely followed by the 55 to 64 age group with 24.2 percent of the workforce, showing that the counties workforce is aging.

In 2011, 51.1 percent of all industry jobs were held by men and 48.9 percent were held by women. Industry differences are discussed below:

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (100.0 percent), agriculture (89.1 percent), transportation and warehousing (85.7 percent), wholesale trade (78.9 percent) and public administration (56.7 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included accommodation and food services (88.3 percent) health care (73.0 percent), other services (67.4 percent), finance and insurance (79.5 percent) and retail trade (63.6 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, Garfield County had 778 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $30 million.

The county annual average wage was $38,852 in 2012, which is well below the state’s average annual wage of $51,964. In 2012, Garfield County was ranked 15th in the state for average annual wages among 39 the counties.

The Garfield County median hourly wage was $16.84 in 2011, which was well 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 the per capita income in Garfield County was $35,999, which is up by 4.2 percent from 2010 income of $34,543. Nonetheless, income was well below the state’s per capita income of $43,878 according to Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Median household income over the period 2007 to 2011 was $47,379, well below the state’s $58,890, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.

Over the period 2007 to 2011, 12.9 percent of the population was living below the poverty level. This compares to 12.5 percent for the state and 14.3 percent for the nation.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

According to the Census of 2012, the Garfield County population was estimated to be 2,228. The population in Garfield County has been declining over the past ten years by 0.6 percent a year. Over the last twenty years there were no significant changes in population. The population is expected to remain stable or show some growth.

The Garfield County seat and the largest city is Pomeroy with population of 1,400 in 2012. The second major city is Pataha City.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Garfield County Washington state
Population 2012 2,228 6,897,012
Population 2000 2,397 5,894,121
Percent change, 2000 to 2012 -7.0% 17.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Garfield County has a large retirement community with 23.1 percent of the population being over 65 years of age.

  • Garfield County’s population age 65 and older was 23.1 percent in 2012 compared to the state’s 13.2 percent.
  • Those under 18 years of age make up 18.9 percent compared to the state’s 23.0 percent.
  • The youngest age group, those under 5 years of age, was 3.9 percent in 2012, smaller than the state’s 6.4 percent.

Females made up 51.3 percent of the county’s population, slightly above the state’s 50.1 percent.

Diversity in the county shows 95.7 percent of residents are white non-Hispanics, with 4.6 percent persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, compared to the state’s 81.6 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Garfield County Washington state
Population by age, 2012    
Under 5 years old 3.9% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 18.9% 23.0%
65 years and older 23.1% 13.2%
Females, 2012 51.3% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White 95.7% 81.6%
Black 0.1 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 0.3% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.8% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 4.6% 11.7%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Over the period 2007 to 2011, 94.4 percent of individuals age 25 and older were high school graduates, which is higher than that of Washington State (89.8 percent).

Over the same period, it’s estimated that 20.6 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 (31.4 percent).