Skip Navigation

Home : Reports, data & tools : County Profiles : Grant County Profile

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 largest 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 has 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 the 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. In 2014 for example, food processing (NAICS 311) provided 42.7 percent of the 4,988 manufacturing jobs in Grant County. 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, Washington Potato Co. and Pacific Coast Canola in Warden; Con Agra Foods, Inc. and Quincy Foods, LLC in Quincy; and J. R. Simplot Co. and National Frozen Foods in Moses Lake.

A testimony to the importance of agriculture to the Grant County economy was provided in the 2012 Agricultural Census produced by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). According to the NASS, in calendar year 2012 Grant County registered the highest volume of agricultural sales ($1.7 billion) in all of Washington’s 39 counties. Crop and livestock sales in the County were $1.1 billion in 2007, the last year in which NASS released county-level sales data. A July 9, 2014 Columbia Basin Herald article entitled Grant County Leads Washington State in Agricultural Sales reported: “The increase between the 2007 and 2012 census was enough to bump Grant County up one spot on the state's list of top agricultural sellers. In 2007, Grant County had the No. 2 spot on the list, coming in after Yakima County which recorded $1.2 billion in agricultural sales that year.” Yakima County came in a close-second to Grant County during 2012, tallying $1.6 billion in sales.

Also, the area’s low-cost electricity, availability of rail transportation, abundance of reasonably priced land, easy access to Interstate 90 and a 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 is prominent in Grant County’s economy. Examples of several durable goods manufacturers located in Moses Lake (and the products they make) are: Chemi-Con Materials (electrolytic aluminum foil), D&L Foundry and Supply (ironwork), Genie Industries Inc. (aerial work platforms), Inflation Systems - Takata Corporation (automotive air bag propellant and components), Moses Lake Industries (chemicals for semiconductor wafer fabrication), Moses Lake Steel (steel products), REC Silicon (polysilicon and silane gas manufacturing) and SGL Automotive Carbon Fiber (automotive parts). The later firm is newest addition to the list of local manufacturers and is a plant that makes carbon fiber components for BMW automobiles. In addition, Eldorado Stone (stone and brick processing) is located in Royal City and 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



The Grant County economy has been on a recovery path since the depressed economic years of 2009 and 2010. During the past five years (from 2011 through 2015) average annual nonfarm job growth has ranged from a low of 0.7 percent in 2012 to a high of 3.9 percent in 2014.

Between 2014 and 2015, Grant County's economy provided 400 new nonfarm jobs as total nonfarm employment rose from 28,800 in 2014 to 29,200 in 2015, an average annual increase of 1.4 percent. This was less robust than the state’s 2.8 percent job growth rate. The County had posted year-over-year increases in nonfarm jobs for 36 months (from October 2012 through September 2015) until nonfarm employment decreased during each month of the 4th Quarter 2015. By December 2015 employers provided 28,330 jobs, a 750 job and 2.6 percent decrease from the 29,080 recorded in December 2014. In effect, the local job market started 2015 with a “bang” - but it ended the year with a “whimper.” The question is whether this employment contraction during the 4th Quarter of 2015 is a temporary lull or a trend – and that remains to be seen.

In comparison, between 2014 and 2015 Washington's labor market provided 84,900 new nonfarm jobs, an annual average increase of 2.8 percent. In December 2015, businesses and government organizations across Washington supplied 3,195,300 nonfarm jobs (not seasonally adjusted), compared to 3,127,300 jobs in December 2014, a 2.2 percent year-over-year employment increase. The state’s economy has posted year-over-year nonfarm employment increases for the past 63 consecutive months (October 2010 through December 2015).

Long-term (i.e. ten-year) nonfarm employment projections produced by the Employment Security Department are for a 1.7 percent average annual growth rate from 2013-2023 for the five-county North Central WDA (i.e., Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties) and for a 1.8 percent growth rate for Washington state.


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 10.9 percent in 2010. The unemployment rate then fell to 10.0 percent in 2011, 9.5 percent in 2012, 8.8 percent in 2013 and 7.7 percent in 2014.

Between 2014 and 2015 in Grant County:

  • Not seasonally adjusted unemployment declined from 7.7 to 7.1 percent, a six-tenths percentage point contraction. This 7.1 percent reading for calendar year 2015 is finally back down into pre-recession unemployment rate range of 5.8 to 7.2 percent, as mentioned in the previous paragraph. Washington state’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.2 percent in 2014 to 5.5 percent in 2015, a downturn of seven-tenths percentage point.
  • The average number of unemployed fell from 3,449 to 3,248, meaning that 201 fewer Grant County residents were out of work in 2015 versus 2014.
  • The civilian labor force (CLF) grew by 1,035, from 44,677 to 45,712 residents (up 2.3 percent). At first glance this 2.3 percent average annual growth rate in the county’s labor force between 2014 and 2015 may appear to be very encouraging economic news for the local economy and it is good news. On an average basis during 2015 the number of unemployed residents declined, as did the unemployment rate and the number or residents in the labor force expanded. However, the timing of these changes is also relevant and this is where there is cause for concern. Grant County's CLF year-over-year growth rates slowed to less than one percent in September, November and December 2015 - and dipped into the negative column in August and October 2015.

Washington's Civilian Labor Force (CLF) expanded by 48,261 residents (a 1.4 percent upturn) from 2014 to 2015. The state’s labor force has increased, year over year, for the past 23 months (February 2014 through December 2015) but the growth pace has slowed to less than one percent in each of the past five months (August through December 2015). In December 2015, Washington’s CLF tallied 3,544,002 residents versus 3,510,899 in December 2014 equating to 33,103 more Washingtonians in the labor force (up 0.9 percent).

To summarize, both Grant County’s and Washington’s labor forces expanded between 2014 and 2015 and average annual unemployment rates fell. Nevertheless, decelerating year-over-year monthly CLF growth rates during the last half of 2015 (for both areas) bear watching, especially when coupled with declining nonfarm job growth rates in Grant County in the last half of 2015. 


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The analysis in the first part of this “Industry employment” section is derived primarily from Quarterly Benchmarked (WA-QB) data. One advantage of these data is that the employment information is very current and data are updated monthly using WA_QB employment estimates. However, estimates are nonfarm related (i.e., they do not include agricultural employment figures).

The analysis in the second part of this “Industry employment” section is derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) program, conducted by the Washington State Employment Security Department. Although it takes a little longer to acquire QCEW data (than WA-QB data), the economic information provided is broader and more detailed than that provided by WA-QB.

First, QCEW includes employment, wage and size of firm figures for the agricultural sector, which WA-QB does not include. Second, QCEW data provides employment, wage and size of firm figures for businesses and government organizations in Grant County down to the 3-digit NAICS sub-sector level (i.e., more detail than WA-QB). QCEW data include agricultural and nonagricultural employment and wages for firms, organizations and individuals whose employees are covered by the Washington State Employment Security Act. Also included are data for Federal Government agencies covered by Title 5, U.S.C. 85. Covered employment generally exceeds 85 percent of total employment in the state of Washington.

Types of jobs not covered under the unemployment compensation system and hence not included in QCEW data include casual laborers not performing duties in the course of the employer’s trade or business; railroad personnel; newspaper delivery people; insurance or real estate agents paid on a commission basis only; non-covered employees working for parochial schools, religious, or non-profit organizations; employees of sheltered workshops; inmates working in penal institutions; non-covered corporate officers; etc.

Analysis using Quarterly Benchmarked data:

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the national recession occurred from December 2007 through June 2009. The effects of this recession hit the Grant County labor market lightly in 2008, hard in 2009 and then lightly in 2010. Nonfarm employment in Grant County peaked at an average of 27,610 jobs in 2007. A brief synopsis of average annual local nonfarm employment trends from 2008 through 2015 follows:

  • In 2008 - Total nonfarm employment ebbed 0.2 percent in 2008 (down 60 jobs) to an average annual figure of 27,550. Nonfarm employment across Washington grew a paltry 0.9 percent in 2008.
  • In 2009 - Both Grant County and Washington state faced the full brunt of the national economic recession. Grant County’s nonfarm employment lost 1,030 jobs, a 3.7-percent contraction, from 27,550 jobs in 2008 to 26,520 in 2009. Manufacturing employment lost 660 jobs (down 14.3 percent), construction netted 130 fewer jobs (down 8.0 percent) and professional and business services, which includes temporary agencies, provided 510 fewer jobs (down 31.5 percent). If there was any consolation to the dismal performance of the local economy in 2009, it was that the state’s nonfarm market fared even worse – falling by 4.3 percent between 2008 and 2009.
  • In 2010 - Total nonfarm employment dipped 0.3 percent (down 70 jobs) from 26,520 in 2009 to an average annual figure of 26,450. Although some industries fought back (i.e., nondurable goods manufacturing grew by 110 jobs and private education and health services average 180 more jobs), construction losses were severe. Construction plummeted from 1,490 to 1,200, an annual average loss of 290 jobs and a 19.5-percent retrenchment. The state’s nonfarm market contracted by 0.9 percent during 2010.
  • In 2011 – Grant County’s economy rebounded. The number of nonfarm jobs rose from 26,450 to 27,140 a 2.6-percent and 690-job increase. This recovery was led by a 420 job average annual increase in manufacturing, which grew from 5,200 jobs in 2010 to 5,620 in 2011. Washington’s recovery was also underway as total nonfarm employment expanded by 1.3 percent between 2010 and 2011.
  • In 2012 – The local nonfarm market expanded by 0.7 percent, to 27,340. This equated to a 200-job average annual upturn over 2011. Durable goods manufacturers in Grant County increased the number of workers from 1,780 to 1,920, accounting for 140 of this 200-job upturn. Washington’s nonfarm economy moved upwards by 1.7 percent between 2011 and 2012.
  • In 2013 – Grant County’s economy advanced by 1.4 percent (up 380 jobs) to 27,720. The tempo of job growth improved statewide as well. State and local government education tallied 240 more jobs countywide in 2013 (3,410 jobs) than in 2012 (3,190 jobs), a 3.4 percent upturn. Washington’s nonfarm market averaged 2.4 percent more nonfarm jobs in 2013 than in 2012.
  • In 2014 – This was a particularly good year for the local economy. Nonfarm employment averaged 28,800, a 1,080-job and 3.9-percent upturn over the 27,720 jobs tallied in 2013. Nonfarm growth was particularly strong in manufacturing (up 400) and in professional and business services (up 250). Statewide, the nonfarm labor market saw the number of jobs rise by 2.7 percent, the best growth rate in eight years (since the 2.9 percent expansion in 2006).
  • In 2015 - Grant County's economy provided 400 new nonfarm jobs, an average annual increase of 1.4 percent, less robust than the state’s 2.8 percent job growth rate. Although Grant County’s durable goods manufacturers (up 130 jobs), wholesale trade (up 120 jobs) and professional and business services (up 220 jobs) fared well; construction (down 40 jobs), private education and health services (down 50 jobs) and state and local government education (down 70 jobs) all tightened their belts in 2015, accounting for the rather lackluster performance of the Grant County economy last year.

Referring to the most current monthly WA-QB data, Grant County’s economy had posted year-over-year increases in nonfarm jobs for 36 months (from October 2012 through September 2015) until nonfarm employment decreased during each month of the 4th Quarter 2015. In December 2015 employers provided 28,330 jobs, a 750 job and 2.6 percent decrease from the 29,080 recorded in December 2014. In effect, the local job market started 2015 with a “bang” - but it ended the year with a “whimper.”

Between 2014 and 2015, Washington's labor market provided 84,900 new nonfarm jobs, an annual average increase of 2.8 percent. This December, businesses and government organizations across Washington supplied 3,195,300 nonfarm jobs (not seasonally adjusted), compared to 3,127,300 jobs in December 2014, a 2.2 percent year-over-year employment increase. The state’s economy has posted year-over-year nonfarm employment increases for the past 63 consecutive months (October 2010 through December 2015).

Analysis using QCEW data:

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is an industry classification system that groups businesses/organizations into categories or sectors based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged. There are 19 private sectors and three government sectors (for a total of 22 sectors) at the 2-digit NAICS code level, within each county-level economy. One can observe much about the structure of a county’s economy by quantifying and comparing the number of jobs and the percentage of jobs in these sectors by using annual average Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) data. The most recent average annual employment data available for Grant County are for 2014 and these data show:

The top five Grant County sectors in 2014 in terms of employment were:

Sector Number of jobs Share of employment
1. Agriculture, forestry and fishing 10,658 27.4%
2. Local government 6,613 17.0%
3. Manufacturing 4,988 12.8%
4. Retail trade 3,209 8.3%
5. Health Services 2,714 7.0%
All other industries 10,704 27.5%
Total covered employment 38,886 100%

More than seventy percent (72.5 percent, to be exact) of all jobs in Grant County were in five, two-digit NAICS industries or sectors (i.e., agriculture, local government, manufacturing, retail trade and health services). A comparison of the top five sectors that provided the most jobs in Grant County in 2014 with the sectors that produced the highest payrolls follows:

  • Agriculture provided 27.4 percent of all jobs countywide, but supplied only 18.9 percent of total wage income. Why? Many agricultural jobs are seasonal.
  • Local government provided 17.0 percent (6,613 jobs) of total covered employment in Grant County, yet accounted for 22.5 percent ($314.4 million) of total wage income – indicating that this is a relatively “good paying” industry. Jobs with local public school districts (primary and secondary schools), ports, etc. are tallied under the local government category.
  • Manufacturing (where 42.7 percent of the jobs are in the food processing industry or NAICS 311) provided 12.8 percent of all manufacturing jobs in Grant County, but accounted for 17.1 percent of covered wage income. In 2014, the average manufacturing job paid $47,696 which was 133-percent of the average covered wage of $35,859.
  • The local retail trade sector provided 3,209 jobs in 2014, accounting for 8.3 percent of total covered employment (38,886 jobs) in Grant County, but tallied only 6.2 percent of total covered wages/payroll.
  • Health services tallied 7.0 percent of total covered employment and accounted for 6.0 percent of total wage income.

If one analyzes employment changes in Grant County over the past eleven years (2004-2014) using Washington State Employment Security Department’s annual average Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) data it is noted that total covered employment increased from 31,807 in 2004 to 38,886 in 2014, a 7,070 job and 22.3 percent expansion during this eleven-year period. Of the 22 NAICS sectors mentioned earlier, the sector that added the most jobs during this period was NAICS 11 (Agriculture, forestry and fishing). It provided 7,459 jobs in 2004 versus 10,658 jobs ten years later (in 2014) equating to a 3,199-job and 42.9-percent expansion. Agriculture provides the vast majority of jobs in this agriculture, forestry and fishing category. Hence, one sector (agriculture) accounted for 45.2 percent all covered jobs gained in Grant County between 2004 and 2014.

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 2014, the largest jobholder age group was the 55+ year-olds. This group accounted for 24.4 percent of all job holders in Grant County. Coming in a close-second were 45-54 year-olds who staffed 21.7 percent of all jobs countywide.

Males held 54.6 percent of all jobs and females held 45.4 percent of all jobs countywide in 2014.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (85.3 percent), wholesale trade (77.4 percent) and private utilities (75.8 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (81.4 percent), educational services (71.1 percent) and professional, scientific and technical services (66.7 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)

The total covered payroll in 2014 in Grant County was approximately $1.39 billion. The average annual wage was $35,859 or 65.2 percent of the state average of $55,003.

The top five Grant County industries in 2014 in terms of payrolls were:

Sector Payroll Share of payrolls
1. Local government $314,458,151 22.5%
2. Agriculture, forestry and fishing $262,965,764 18.9%
3. Manufacturing $237,908,887 17.1%
4. Retail trade $85,809,673 6.2%
5. Wholesale trade $83,706,812 6.0%
All other industries $409,625,726 29.4%
Total covered payrolls $1,394,425,013 100%

As shown in the table above, QCEW data showed that Grant County’s workers received $1.39 billion in wages in calendar year 2014. Over seventy percent of this wage income was earned in five, two-digit NAICS industries or sectors (i.e., local government, agriculture, manufacturing, retail trade and wholesale trade). Local government was the largest provider of wage income/payroll in the county in 2014, supplying 22.5 percent of total earned wage income and accounting for 17.0 percent of all jobs (see “Industry employment” section). Agriculture, forestry and fishing ranked second in 2014 in terms of share of total covered payroll, providing 18.9 percent of all wages earned in Grant County - where the lion’s share of wages were earned in the agricultural industry. In fact, agriculture provided more jobs in 2014 than any other Grant County sector (i.e. 10,658 jobs or 27.4 percent of all covered employment). The disparity in percentages between wages and employment is because there is a relatively high proportion of seasonal jobs in the agricultural sector.

Annual average wages in 2014 were highest in management of companies and enterprises ($93,430) and wholesale trade ($53,283). Conversely, annual average wages were accommodation and food services ($15,327) and in private educational services ($18,425).

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 2014, Grant County inflation-adjusted per capita personal income was $34,438, less than the state ($49,610) and the nation ($46,049).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $46,772 in the period 2010 through 2014. The county’s median was less than the state ($60,294) and the nation ($53,482).

In the period 2010 through 2014, 15.8 percent of the county’s population was living below the poverty level, higher than the state at 13.2 percent and the nation at 14.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts. The state and national rates are not directly comparable to the county rate because they each use different data sources.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County’s population in 2014 was 93,147. The population grew 4.5 percent from April 1, 2010 through July 1, 2014, a bit slower than the state’s 5.0 percent growth rate during this timeframe.

Moses Lake is the largest city in the county with an estimated population in 2014 of 21,713 residents. Ephrata is the next largest city with 8,031 residents.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County Washington state
Population 2014 93,147 7,061,530
Population 2010 89,120 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 4.5% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Individuals under 18 years of age comprise 30.2 percent of Grant County’s population, which is greater than the 22.7 percent proportion across Washington state. Persons under 5 years of age comprised 8.6 percent of the county population compared to 6.3 percent for the state.

Females made up 49.5 percent of the population compared to 50.0 percent in the state.

Hispanics or Latinos made up 39.9 percent of the local population, considerably higher than the 12.2 percent statewide figure.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County Washington state
Population by age, 2014
Under 5 years old 8.6% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 30.2% 22.7%
65 years and older 12.6% 14.1%
Females, 2014 49.5% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White Alone 92.6% 80.7%
Black Alone 1.8% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.1% 1.9%
Asian Alone 1.1% 8.2%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 0.2% 0.7%
Two or more races 2.2% 4.5%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 39.9% 12.2%
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino 55.7% 70.4%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

According to the American Community Survey (ACS), during the period 2010 through 2014, 75.8 percent of Grant County’s adults age 25 and older graduated from high school versus Washington’s 90.2 percent.

Only 15.5 percent of county residents age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 32.3 percent in Washington state and 29.3 percent nationwide.