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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.

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 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



The Grant County economy is on a steady path to recovery from the depressed economic years of 2009 and 2010. A comparison of average annual nonfarm employment changes in the county and in Washington state during the last five completed years (2009-2013) and an estimate of nonfarm employment in 2014 follows:

  • In 2009 - The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) stated that the national recession occurred from December 2007 through June 2009. This effected Grant County’s economy as employment fell from an average of 27,550 nonfarm jobs in 2008 to 26,520 in 2009, a contraction of 3.7 percent and a loss of 1,030 jobs. One of the local industries particularly hard hit was manufacturing. This sector alone lost 660 jobs between 2008 (when local manufacturers provided 4,610 jobs) and 2009 (when employment averaged only 3,950), equating to an average annual downturn of 14.3 percent. If 2009 was a dismal year for the local job market, it was abysmal the state’s economy. Employment across Washington plummeted from 2,993,900 nonfarm jobs in 2008 to 2,863,400 in 2009, 4.4 percent downturn and a loss of 130,500 nonfarm jobs.
  • In 2010 - On an average annual basis, 2010 was another down year for labor markets, countywide and statewide. Total nonfarm employment in Grant County tailed off by 70 nonfarm jobs (to 26,450), a 0.3 percent decline. Mining, logging and construction (in which the lion’s share of employment is in construction) went into a tailspin as payrolls dropped from 1,490 jobs countywide in 2009 to 1,200 in 2010, a 19.5 percent contraction. Washington dropped 26,300 jobs (to 2,837,100), a 0.9 percent retrenchment. The only good news to local and statewide nonfarm job markets in 2010 was that job loss rates were not as severe as in 2009.
  • In 2011 - The economy began to improve – for Washington state and for Grant County. The county added 690 new jobs (a 2.6 percent advance) as nonfarm employment rose to 27,140. One of the major reasons was the rapid expansion in Grant County’s manufacturing sector. This industry grew from 4,000 jobs in 2010 to 4,420 in 2011, a 420 job and a 10.5 percent upturn. Washington’s average nonfarm growth rate in 2011 was 1.3 percent as the economy generated 36,300 new jobs and employment grew to 2,873,400. Hence, in 2011 Grant County’s economy rebounded more rapidly than Washington’s economy as nonfarm employment growth averaged 2.6 percent versus a statewide pace of 1.3 percent.
  • In 2012 - The state and local labor markets continued to expand. In 2012, total nonfarm employment averaged 27,340 jobs in Grant County, a 200 job increase (up 0.7 percent) from the 27,140 provided during 2011. Local manufacturers continued hiring, netting 120 more jobs in 2012 than in the prior. The remarkable thing about this manufacturing expansion is that it was centered in durable goods, versus nondurable goods manufacturing. Durable goods manufacturing averaged 1,780 jobs in 2011 versus 1,920 in 2012, a 140 job and 7.9 percent uptrend. Conversely, nondurable goods manufacturing (primarily food processing) ebbed a bit, from 2,640 jobs in 2011 to 2,620 in 2012, a 20 job and 0.8 percent downturn. Washington’s labor market continued to recover in 2012 as employers added 48,400 jobs, a 1.7 percent upturn and nonfarm employment averaged 2,921,800.
  • In 2013 - The local economy and Washington’s economy continued to gather steam with this being the 3rd consecutive year (i.e., 2011, 2012 and 2013) of job growth in both areas. Grant County netted 390 new nonfarm jobs between 2012 and 2013 (a 1.4 percent advance) as employment rose to 27,730. Calendar year 2013 was a turning point since it was the year in which the County officially regained all jobs lost during the recent recession. The previous “peak” in Grant County’s nonfarm employment was in 2007, six years prior, when nonfarm employment averaged 27,610. What sector led this most recent expansion? State and local government education was the sector that added the most jobs countywide in 2013. After averaging 3,190 jobs in 2011 and in 2012, state and local government education moved upward 220 jobs to 3,410 in 2013 (up 6.9 percent). Across the state, the total nonfarm growth rate was 2.3 percent in 2013 as the economy generated 68,600 new jobs and employment averaged 2,990,400.
  • In 2014 - At the time of report preparation, September 2014 employment figures and unemployment rates were the most current data available. In September 2014, nonfarm employment in Grant County slipped 0.1 percent below total nonfarm employment in September 2013 as local nonfarm employers provided 28,770 jobs - a 30 job decrease from the 28,800 jobs tallied in September 2013. This was a step backwards for local economy following 23 months of year over year gains in total nonfarm employment (from October 2012 through August 2014). One Grant County industry, leisure and hospitality (primarily hotels and restaurants) posted substantial year-over-year losses from April through September 2014. Between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014 leisure and hospitality lost 420 jobs countywide, a 15.6 percent contraction. One of the reasons: the damaged Wanapum Dam and the subsequent closure of the reservoir shoreline in March 2014 reduced the number of vacationers. However, dam repairs have recently been completed and the reservoir is refilling, hence it is likely this Grant County industry will soon rebound. Conversely, estimates show that many other Grant County industries fared well in the first eight months of 2014. For example; Grant County's manufacturing industry has been adding workers for the past 12 months (from October 2013 through September 2014). This industry increased 7.7 percent between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014, from 4,920 to 5,300, a 380 job expansion led by local durable goods manufacturing firms which netted 290 jobs (up 14.9 percent) and helped by nondurable goods manufacturing companies which added 90 jobs (up 3.0 percent). Another industry that has been growing so far in 2014 is construction. Between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014 construction increased from 1,220 to 1,320 jobs, a 100 job and 8.2 percent expansion. This industry has been growing year over year for the past four months (June through September 2014). Barring unforeseen economic events in the 4th Quarter of 2014, it is anticipated that Grant County’s total nonfarm employment will net about 270 new jobs and average about 28,000 in 2014, a one percent average annual growth rate.

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, 9.6 percent in 2012 and 8.8 percent in 2013.

Between 2012 and 2013 in Grant County:

  • Not seasonally adjusted unemployment declined from 9.6 to 8.8 percent, an eight-tenths percentage point contraction. In comparison, Washington state’s unemployment rate decreased one and one-tenths percentage point (from 8.1 percent in 2012 to 7.0 percent in 2013).
  • The average number of unemployed fell from 3,960 to 3,670, meaning that 290 fewer Grant County residents were out of work in 2013 versus 2012.
  • The civilian labor force (CLF) grew by 210, from 41,480 to 41,690 residents (up 0.5 percent). At first glance this 0.5 percent average annual growth rate in the county’s labor force between 2012 and 2013 may appear rather lethargic, but it should be viewed in the context of what occurred statewide and in many neighboring north central Washington counties during 2013. First, note that Washington’s labor force shrank in 2013 by 0.7 percent. Second, the labor forces in the following neighboring counties also contracted in 2013: Adams County’s CLF ebbed by 1.0 percent; the Wenatchee MSA (Chelan and Douglas counties) CLF fell 2.9 percent; Kittitas County’s CLF retrenched 1.9 percent; and Yakima County’s slipped by 1.1 percent. Hence, the fact that Grant County’s civilian labor force rose 0.5 percent during 2013, while neighboring counties and Washington state saw their labor forces dwindle - is a sign of vitality for the Grant County economy.

As mentioned earlier, Washington's Civilian Labor Force (CLF) shrank by 23,600 residents (a 0.7 percent downturn) between 2012 and 2013 and it continued to decline during the first six months of 2014. However, the CLF expanded year over year in July, August and September 2014. Most recently, from September 2013 to September 2014, the state’s labor force increased 0.4 percent. In September 2014, Washington’s CLF tallied 3,479,250 residents versus 3,465,480 in September 2013, equating to 13,770 more Washingtonians in the labor force.

The Grant County CLF expanded by 0.5 percent in 2013. The local labor force receded in each of the first six months of 2014 before posting year over year expansions in July, August and September 2014. This may indicate that despite the weak start in the first half of 2014, the local labor market is again regaining some of the “steam” it had in 2013. Between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014 the CLF advanced 1.4 percent, from 44,140 to 44,770 residents (meaning that 630 more residents were in the labor force). The number of unemployed declined from 2,840 in September 2013 to 2,490 in September 2014 (meaning that 350 fewer residents were out of work). The result was that Grant County’s unemployment rate dropped by eight-tenths of a percentage point between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Data in this section are derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) program, conducted by the Washington State Employment Security Department. QCEW data includes 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.

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 county-level economic trends by analyzing absolute changes (in number of jobs) and relative changes (in percentage of jobs) in these sectors over a given time period. If one analyzes employment changes in Grant County over the past ten years (2004-2013) using annual average Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) data the following employment trends emerge:

In Grant County, total covered employment increased from 31,807 in 2004 to 37,192 in 2013, a 5,385 job and 16.9 percent expansion during this period. Of the 22 NAICS sectors mentioned earlier, there were five major sectors that accounted for well over two-thirds of all jobs countywide in 2004 and in 2013. In 2013 agriculture provided 27.0 percent, local government 17.5 percent, manufacturing 12.3 percent, retail trade 8.6 percent and accommodation and food services 5.7 percent of total covered employment countywide. Hence, the Grant County economy is not a tremendously diverse economy. Also, there was some repositioning of the ranking of these sectors during this period (as described below). A summary of covered employment changes within these sectors between 2004 and 2013 follows:

  • The number of jobs in agriculture, forestry and fishing (of which the vast majority are in agriculture) jumped 34.6 percent (from 7,459 jobs in 2004 to 10,041 in 2013). Hence agriculture retained its dominant position in Grant County, in terms of employment, over this ten-year period.
  • Local government registered a 15.5 percent upturn (from 5,625 jobs in 2004 to 6,498 in 2013) making public administration the second largest sector, employment-wise, during this timeframe.
  • Manufacturing posted a strong 17.7 percent expansion (from 3,898 jobs in 2004 to 4,587 in 2013) strengthening its ranking as the third largest sector countywide, in terms of jobs provided in 2004 and in 2014.
  • Retail trade employment increased 11.6 percent (from 2,941 jobs in 2004 to 3,208 in 2013) maintaining its ranking as the fourth-largest sector in Grant County in 2013.
  • The fifth-largest sector in Grant County during 2013 was accommodation and food services (primarily hotels and restaurants). Accommodation and food services businesses provided 2,123 part- and full-time jobs in 2013 versus 1,708 in 2004, a strong 24.3 percent expansion. This sector advanced from its ranking as the sixth-largest sector in Grant County in 2004.

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 jobholder age group was the 55+ year-olds. This group accounted for 22.5 percent of all job holders in Grant County. Coming in a close-second were 45-54 year-olds who staffed 21.4 percent of all jobs countywide.

Males held 53.9 percent of all jobs and females held 46.1 percent of all jobs countywide in 2012.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (87.1 percent), wholesale trade (79.1 percent) and private utilities (77.3 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (81.4 percent), other services (72.7 percent) and educational services (71.7 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)

In 2013, there were 37,192 covered employment jobs in Grant County, based on revised figures. The total payroll for 2013 was approximately $1.3 billion. The average annual wage was $35,063 or 66.1 percent of the state average of $53,030.

In Grant County, total covered wages increased from $821.0 million in 2004 to $1.3 billion in 2013, a $483.1 million and 58.8 percent expansion during this period. Of the 22 NAICS sectors mentioned earlier, there were five sectors that accounted for well over two-thirds of all wages countywide in 2004 and in 2013. In 2013, local government provided 23.0 percent, agriculture 17.9 percent, manufacturing 17.7 percent, retail trade 6.4 percent and wholesale trade 5.7 percent and of total covered wages/payrolls countywide. Also, there was some repositioning of the ranking of these sectors during this period (as described below). A summary of covered wage changes within these sectors between 2004 and 2013 follows:

  • Local government, part of the public administration sector, was the top wage/payroll providing industry in Grant County in 2004 and in 2013. Wages paid by local government organizations grew to $299.9 million in 2013 from $203.4 million in 2004, a 47.4 percent upturn during these ten years. However, in relative terms, local government payrolls did not grow quite as rapidly as total covered wages countywide, which advanced 58.8 percent between 2004 and 2013.
  • Agriculture strengthened its position in Grant County in terms of total covered wages paid in 2004 and in 2013. The total covered payroll in agriculture, forestry and fishing (of which the vast majority are in agriculture) jumped from $134.6 million in 2004 to $233.7 million in 2013, a 73.6 percent increase. In dollar value however, the $233.7 million in wages earned by employees in Grant County’s agricultural sector in 2013 still lagged behind the $299.9 million earned by local government employees.
  • Manufacturing wages increased 78.7 percent in aggregate (from $128.8 million in 2004 to $230.2 million in 2013) as it maintained its ranking as the third-largest wage generating sector countywide. Note that although total covered manufacturing wages/payroll grew 78.7 percent in the ten years from 2004 to 2013, the number manufacturing jobs expanded at a more modest 17.7 percent pace (from 3,898 jobs in 2004 to 4,587 in 2013) which helped drive up the average annual manufacturing wage from $33,043 in 2004 to $50,179 in 2013. Clearly this uptrend is good news for many manufacturing workers in Grant County.
  • Retail trade wages increased modestly, by 34.2 percent (from $62.2 million in 2004 to $83.5 million in 2013) as this sector remained fourth in the ranking of Grant County’s payrolls.
  • Wholesale trade (NAICS 42) was a newcomer to the top five sectors by wages in 2013. This sector includes the following three subsectors: merchant wholesalers of durable goods (NAICS 423), merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods (NAICS 424) and wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers (NAICS 425). The short story is that wage growth skyrocketed in Grant County from $32.6 million in 2004 to $75.0 million in 2013 – a 129.7 percent jump in payroll. This sharp increase in wages paid propelled wholesale trade from the number seven ranking to the number five position in 2013. One of the main subsectors driving this advance in wages was the wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers subsector (NAICS 425). In 2004 this subsector had five firms, an average annual employment of seven, with a total payroll of $227,597. In 2013 this subsector was comprised of 25 firms, an average annual employment of 145, with a total payroll of $9.3 million.

In 2013, average annual wages were highest in management of companies and enterprises ($86,342) and in wholesale trade ($52,248). Average annual wages were lowest in accommodation and food services ($15,306) and in other services, except public administration ($15,486).

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, Grant County per capita personal income was $32,342, less than the state ($46,045) and the nation ($43,735).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $45,531 in the period 2008 through 2012. The county’s median was less than the state ($59,374) and the nation ($53,046).

In the period 2008 through 2012, 20.1 percent of the county’s population was living below the poverty level, higher than the state at 12.9 percent and the nation at 14.9 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Grant County’s population in 2013 was 91,878. The population grew 3.1 percent from April 1, 2010 through July 1, 2013, a bit slower than the state’s 3.7 percent growth rate during this timeframe.

Moses Lake is the largest city in the county with an estimated population in 2013 of 21,250 residents. Ephrata is the next largest city with 7,870 residents.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County Washington state
Population 2013 91,878 6,971,406
Population 2010 89,120 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 3.1% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County’s largest age group is those under 18, comprising 30.5 percent of the population. This compares to the state at 22.9 percent. Persons under 5 years of age comprised 8.8 percent of the county population compared to 6.4 percent for the state.

Females made up 49.3 percent of the population compared to 50.0 percent in the state.

Hispanics or Latinos made up 39.4 percent of the local population, considerably higher than the 11.9 percent statewide figure.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grant County Washington state
Population by age, 2013
Under 5 years old 8.8% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 30.5% 22.9%
65 years and older 12.4% 13.6%
Females, 2013 49.3% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 92.7% 81.2%
Black 1.8% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.0% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.3% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 39.4% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

According to the 2008 through 2012 American Community Survey (ACS), 75.6 percent of Grant County’s adults age 25 and older graduated from high school versus Washington’s 90.0 percent.

Only 14.6 percent of county residents age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 31.6 percent in Washington state and 28.5 percent nationwide.