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Grays Harbor County Profile

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


Regional context

Grays Harbor County, established in 1854, is bounded to its west by the Pacific Ocean. The Quinault Tribe and several other tribes lived along the coastal area. They were decimated by disease from European contact. The 1850s brought many settlers. The major industries were logging, milling and timber exports.

Local economy

The 1920s brought a long slow decline in the wood products industry including a housing market crash during the Great Depression. Weyerhaeuser planted its first tree farm in 1941 in anticipation of the need to replace old-growth harvests. But local mills suffered further declines from the 1960s on, with Asian mills outbidding them for logs. This was followed by federal logging restrictions due to threats to the spotted owl and salmon. Fishing and clamming, once important to the county’s economy, also deteriorated based on depleted stocks.

In 2000, employment opportunities came in the form of the Stafford Creek prison, which employs close to 600 staff and the Quinault Tribe casino and resort. Charter fishing and ocean beaches continue to bring in tourists. Currently, the majority of firms and employment are in services sector industries.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grays Harbor County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 1,902.3 15
Persons per square mile, 2010 38.3 19



The outlook for 2015 is positive as the county slowly recovers from the Great Recession. Both the private and the government sectors are showing modest growth in the first eleven months of 2015 compared to 2014. Transportation, warehousing and utilities and the professional and business services industries are showing strong growth exceeding 10.8 percent. Construction and manufacturing show growth exceeding 4.5 percent.

The Port of Grays Harbor continues to expand its lines of business including increased log exports, a new compressed natural gas (CNG) facility, and a proposed crude oil facility. Tourism facilities are still beginning developed but the leisure and hospitality industry has shown a slight decline in employment. Important tourism destinations include Westport, Ocean Shores and Seabrook.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The average annual unemployment rate in Grays Harbor County has been on a decline year-over-year since 2011, when it reached 13.9 percent. In the first eleven months of 2015 the figure is 8.9 percent. The last nine months, March through November, have seen the county unemployment rate fall below double digits with the November preliminary rate standing at 8.0 percent. Unfortunately that doesn’t change the fact that more often than not, Grays Harbor County has one of the highest unemployment rates in Western Washington.

Historical data indicates the county rate may reach double digits again once winter and seasonal factors take hold. The months January through March typically have the highest unemployment rates of the year. The labor force has also shrunk over the year, offering some explanation for the dip in unemployment.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Nonfarm employment declined year-over-year from 2007 through 2013. It started to turn around in 2014, which showed a 0.6 percent growth rate (130 jobs) compared to 2013. The first eleven months of 2015 have averaged 22,020 jobs, a 308 job improvement over 2014. Service-providing industries account for the majority of jobs, with state and local government being the top employer. Trade, transportation and utilities account for the next highest employment sector with education and health services in third position.

Nonfarm job growth in the county has been inconsistent, and the last three years have seen nonfarm jobs vary in a 21,750 to 22,020 range. November 2015 data show nonfarm employment growing by 0.8 percent compared to November 2014. Statewide growth was 2.5 percent during this time. Growth in the goods producing sector has proven much more difficult than in the services and government sectors.

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:

In 2014, the largest jobholder age group in Grays Harbor County was the 55 and older age category, making up 27.4 percent of employment across all industries. The next largest share was among persons aged 45 to 54 with 22.4 percent of employment.

  • In 2014, the county’s workers mirrored state patterns with workers ages 14 to 24 dominating services jobs in the county including food service, arts, entertainment and recreation and retail trade.
  • Workers in the 45 year and older age category were prevalent in utilities (61.2 percent), educational services (65.1 percent), transportation and warehousing (62.5 percent), and management of companies (59.5 percent).

Females made up 51.5 percent of the labor force in Grays Harbor County with males making up 48.5 percent in 2014.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (84.8 percent), mining (83.1), manufacturing (77.6 percent), wholesale trade (78.6) and transportation and warehousing (77.7 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (80.6 percent), healthcare and social assistance (81.1 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 2014, there were 21,769 jobs in Grays Harbor County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $801.8 million.

The average annual wage in 2014 was $36,834, well below the state’s average annual wage of $55,003. The median hourly wage in 2014 was $18.60, below the state’s median hourly wage of $22.61.

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 county’s per capita personal income was $32,892, less than the state ($47,717) and the nation ($44,765).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $43,379 in Grays Harbor County during 2010-2014, less than the state ($60,294) and the nation ($53,482) during the same period.

In 2014, Grays Harbor County’s poverty rate of 18.6 percent was well above Washington state’s rate of 13.2 percent and the nation’s rate of 14.8 percent, according to 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)

Grays Harbor County’s population was forecast to be 70,818 in 2014, down from the 2010 Census count of 72,797.

Of the 2014 population total, 39.1 percent were counted as living in unincorporated areas of the county. The largest city in Grays Harbor County is Aberdeen (16,255), followed by Hoquiam (8,389) and Ocean Shores (5,628). The fourth largest city in the county is Montesano with a population of 4,070.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grays Harbor County Washington state
Population 2014 70,818 7,061,530
Population 2010 72,797 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 -2.7% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • The age category of persons under 18 years makes up 21.1 percent of the 2014 population forecast total.
  • The group 65 years and over makes up 18.9 percent of the population.
  • The youngest age group, those under 5 years, makes up 5.6 percent of the population.
  • Females made up 48.7 percent of the county’s population compared to the state at 50.0 percent.
  • Grays Harbor County is less diverse than the state or nation, according to the 2014 data, as nearly 87.7 percent of the populations are counted as white.
  • The largest minority grouping in the county is the Hispanic or Latino grouping at 9.8 percent, while the American Indian/Alaska Native category accounted for 5.4 percent of the population in 2014.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grays Harbor County Washington state
Population by age, 2014    
Under 5 years old 5.6% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 21.1% 22.7%
65 years and older 18.9% 14.1%
Females, 2014 48.7% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 87.7% 80.7%
Black 1.4% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 5.4% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.8% 8.9%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 9.8% 12.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

In the county, 86.5 percent of persons age 25 or older were high school graduates, compared to 90.2 percent statewide during the period 2010-2014. The numbers holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher were 15.0 percent compared to the states 32.3 percent.