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Grant County Profile

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


Regional context

In 1902, Grant County was carved out of Douglas County as its own county. Grant County is fourth in the state in terms of land area, but is sparsely populated. It is located toward the central-eastern edge of the state in the Columbia Basin. On the north end of the county is the Grand Coulee Dam, which is the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States, and one of the largest concrete structures in the world.

Grant County is relatively flat, making it ideal for raising livestock on its dry grassland, which was the primary draw for white settlers in the mid-1880s. The coming of the railroad helped move more settlers into farming as it provided a means to get products to market. The semi-arid climate created a challenge for farming, with most farmers locating near water sources. Irrigation made it possible to produce many agricultural products in the area.

Local economy

Grant County industry has been heavily concentrated in ranching and agriculture. Many of the county’s early residents were sheep and cattle ranchers. The transition to fruit and crop farming as dominant industries resulted from the development of adequate irrigation capacity starting in the 1930s.

Today agriculture still plays a large role for the area which is known for its tree fruit, irrigated farming of a variety of crops and the associated food processing industry, which makes up a large part of the nondurable-goods manufacturing sector. Employers in this sector manufacture frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen specialty foods and canned fruits. Some of the biggest food manufacturers found in Grant County are Lamb Weston BSW in Warden, Con Agra Foods, Inc. in Quincy, J. R. Simplot Co. in Moses Lake, Quincy Foods, LLC in Quincy, National Frozen Foods in Moses Lake and Quincy and Washington Potato Co. in Warden.

The area’s low-cost electricity, availability of rail transportation, abundance of reasonably priced land, easy access to Interstate 90 and high-speed fiber optic network have made Grant County attractive to software and manufacturing firms. For example, the county is now home to seven data center companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Intuit, Dell, Sabey, Vantage and Server Farm Realty. With a combined total of over 1.5 million square feet in operating space, these data center firms and server farms have helped to add a new dimension to and diversify the local economy. Manufacturing has also been prominent in Grant County’s economy. Several large local manufacturers (and the products they make) are:

  • Genie Industries, Inc. (aerial work platforms), REC Silicon (polysilicon manufacturing), Takata Corporation (automotive air bags), Moses Lake Industries (industrial chemicals), D & L Foundry, Inc. (manhole covers), International Paper (corrugated box manufacturing), Chemi-Con Material Corp. (aluminum foil) and SGL Automotive Carbon Fiber (automotive parts), all located in Moses Lake. The later firm is newest addition to the list of local manufacturers and is a plant that makes carbon fiber components for BMW automobiles.
  • Eldorado Stone (stone and brick processing) is located in Royal City.
  • Katana Industries (windmill towers) is in Ephrata.
  • Celite Corporation (mineral processing) is based in Quincy.

Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County Washington state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 2,679.51 66,455.2
Persons per square mile, 2010 33.3 101.2



Although the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the national recession occurred from December 2007 through June 2009, the effects of this recession altered Grant County’s labor market lightly in 2008 and heavily in 2009 and 2010. Total nonfarm employment in Grant County peaked at an annual average of 26,960 jobs in 2007. The recession resulted in:

  • Total nonfarm employment declined 0.3 percent in 2008 to 26,870 jobs.
  • It again declined by 4.4 percent in 2009, to 25,690, a loss of 1,180 jobs.
  • During 2010 the local economy lost another 300 jobs, a 1.2 percent downturn, as nonfarm employment averaged 25,390.
  • In 2011 the local labor market increased to 26,060 jobs, a 2.6 percent annual average upturn.
  • This uptrend continued in 2012, but at a more modest pace. In 2012, nonfarm employers accounted for 26,520 jobs, a 1.8 percent and 460 job over-the-year increase.

Grant County’s economy posted year-over-year increases in nonfarm employment in every month from October 2012 through August 2013, equating to eleven consecutive months of job growth. Washington’s labor market has been expanding for 35 months (from October 2010 through August 2013). It is anticipated that job growth will continue countywide and statewide through the balance of calendar year 2013.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Unemployment rates in Grant County were fairly consistent in the four-year period from 2005 to 2008 (before the recession). Rates ranged from a low of 5.8 percent in 2007 to a high of 7.2 percent in 2005. During the recent recession, unemployment rates in Grant County rose to 9.9 percent in 2009 and 10.8 percent in 2010. The unemployment rate then fell to 10.0 percent in 2011 and 9.5 percent in 2012.

Between 2011 and 2012 in Grant County:

  • Not seasonally adjusted unemployment declined from 10.0 to 9.5 percent, a five-tenths percentage point contraction. In comparison, Washington State’s unemployment rate decreased one full percentage point (from 9.2 percent in 2011 to 8.2 percent in 2012).
  • The average number of unemployed fell from 4,200 to 4,000, with 200 fewer Grant County residents out of work.
  • The civilian labor force (CLF) grew by 110, from 41,900 to 42,010 residents.

The August 2013 unemployment rate in Grant County was 7.2 percent, a one and three-tenths percentage point decline from the 8.5 percent reading in August 2012. This July was the 35th consecutive month of year-over-year decreases or of no change in the local unemployment rate (from October 2010 to August 2013).


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Nonfarm employment peaked in Grant County in 2007 at 26,648 jobs, while total covered employment (which includes agricultural jobs) peaked in 2012 at 36,715 jobs. One of the main factors was the large numbers of workers needed to harvest, grade, pack and ship 2012’s bumper apple crop to market. Countywide, growers provided 10,156 full- and part-time agricultural jobs in 2012, a 14.2-percent increase over the 8,891 agricultural jobs in 2011.

In the private sector, agricultural employment accounted for 27.7 percent of total covered employment in 2012 compared to 23.5 percent in 2004. This steady increase indicates agricultural is becoming even more important to Grant County employment. Manufacturing is also a key sector locally, with many durable and nondurable manufacturing firms. This is followed by retail trade and accommodation and food services in the share of employment.

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 two largest jobholder age groups in Grant County were 45 to 54 years of age and 55 years of age and older. These groups each accounted for 22.0 percent of jobs across all industries. The next largest share was among persons aged 25 to 34 with 20.7 percent of jobs.

Males held 53.4 percent of all jobs and females held 46.6 percent of all jobs countywide in 2011.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (87.6 percent), wholesale trade (79.1 percent) and private utilities (77.3 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (81.5 percent), educational services (72.3 percent) and finance and insurance (69.5 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 36,715 jobs covered by unemployment insurance across Grant County, with a total payroll of over $1.27 billion. The top three industries providing the most jobs during 2012 were:

  • Agriculture provided 10,156 jobs, 27.7 percent of Grant County’s total. This industry accounted for $233.5 million in wages, or 18.5 percent of the county’s total covered payroll. The annual average wage in agricultural was $22,995.
  • Local government averaged 6,269 jobs, 17.1 percent of Grant County’s total covered employment. It paid $284.4 million in wages during 2012, or 22.7 percent of the county’s total covered payroll. The annual average wage was $47,485.
  • Manufacturing averaged 4,504 jobs, 12.3 percent of all covered employment. It paid $222.4 million in wages during 2012, or 17.6 percent of the county’s total covered payroll. The annual average wage in 2012 was $49,382.

The average annual total covered wage in 2012 was $34,482, well below the state’s average annual wage of $51,964. Although 2012 median wage data are not available for Grant County, the median hourly wage in 2011 was $15.06, 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, Grant County per capita personal income was $30,999, less than the state ($43,878) and the nation ($41,560).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $44,237 in the period 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, 20.0 percent of the county’s population was living below the poverty level, higher than the state at 12.5 percent and the nation at 14.3 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Grant County’s population in 2012 was 91,723. The population grew 2.9 percent from April 1, 2010 through July 1, 2012, a bit faster than that of state’s 2.6 percent growth rate during this timeframe.

Moses Lake is the largest city in the county with an estimated population in 2012 of 21,182 residents. Ephrata is the next largest city with 7,916 residents.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County Washington state
Population 2012 91,723 6,897,012
Population 2010 89,120 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2012 2.9% 2.6%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County’s largest age group is those under 18, comprising 30.7 percent of the population. This compares to the state at 23.0 percent. Persons under 5 years of age comprised 8.9 percent of the county population compared to 6.4 percent for the state.

Females made up 49.2 percent of the population compared to 50.1 percent in the state.

Hispanics or Latinos made up 39.2 percent of the local population, considerably higher than the 11.7 percent figure for the state.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County Washington state
Population by age, 2012
Under 5 years old 8.9% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 30.7% 23.0%
65 years and older 12.1% 13.2%
Females, 2012 49.2% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White 93.0% 81.6%
Black 1.7% 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.9% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.2% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 39.2% 11.7%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

According to the 2007-2011 American Community Survey (ACS), 75.2 percent of Grant County’s adults age 25 and older graduated from high school versus Washington’s 89.6 percent.

Only 15.2 percent of county residents age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 31.4 percent in Washington state and 28.2 percent nationwide.