Skip Navigation

Home : Reports, data & tools : County Profiles : Grays Harbor County Profile

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 decline in the wood products industry with 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. Mills suffered further declines from the 1960s on, with Asian, then British Columbian competition dealing hard blows to the industry, followed by federal restrictions due to threats to the spotted owl and salmon. Fishing and clamming, once important to the county’s economy, also deteriorated. 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.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grays Harbor County Rank in State
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 1902.3 15
Persons per square mile, 2010 38.3 19



Climbing out of the recession has been a slow process for many of the rural counties in the state and Grays Harbor has been no exception. The situation has been a wait and see attitude as most sectors of the economy have suffered losses that will take some time to regain. The closing of a major mill and the waiting for a buyer has been indicative of the county trying to pull itself up but lacking the financial resources to do so. Time heals all, and eventually the county will get back on track.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Unemployment in the Harbor has been an issue as the unemployment in Grays Harbor has been in double digits since December 2008. At its highest, it has been 15.7 percent in January and February 2010. At its lowest, 10.4 percent at the recessions beginning in December 2008. Lately the figure has been hovering around 13 percent. More often than not, the Harbor has found itself with the highest rate in Western Washington.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Nonfarm employment has, as expected also seen better days. The nonfarm total has not been above 23,000 in Grays Harbor since December 2008. Currently the total has been hanging around the 21,000 area with service-providing employment now accounting for the vast majority of those jobs. With closures in the paper industries, the goods producing sector continue to take hits but come August 2012 some of those losses may be replaced by modest re-openings.

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:

Women outpaced men slightly in Grays Harbor by holding 51.7% of the jobs in 2010. The health care and finance and insurance section were dominated by women. While the men were the runaway leaders in mining and construction.


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 2011, there were 22,372 jobs in Grays Harbor County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $783 million.

The average annual wage in 2011 was $35,001, well below the state’s average annual wage of $50,264. The median hourly wage in 2010 was $17.75, below the state’s median hourly wage of $21.01.

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 2010, the county’s per capita personal income was $29,011, less than the state ($42,589) and the nation ($39,937).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $41,899 in the period 2006 to 2010. The county’s median was less than that of the state ($57,244) and the nation ($51,914) during the same period.

Grays Harbor County’s poverty rate of 16.1 percent was well above to Washington State’s rate of 12.1 percent and the nation’s rate of 13.8 percent in the period 2006 to 2010, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Grays Harbor County’s population was forecast to be 72,546 in 2011, up nearly 4,400 from the 2000 Census count of 67,194.

  • Of the 2011 population total, 28,555 were counted as living in unincorporated areas of the county. The largest city in Grays Harbor County is Aberdeen (16,870), followed by Hoquiam (8,650), and Ocean Shores (5,615). The fourth largest city in the county is Montesano with a population of 4,010.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grays Harbor County Washington State
Population 2011 72,546 6,830,038
Population 2000 67,194 5,894,121
Percent Change, 2000 to 2011 8.0% 15.9%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • The largest age category in Grays Harbor County’s population is the 25 to 29 year-olds, which make up over 5,700 of the 2011 population forecast total.
  • The next two largest groups are the 15 to19 and 50 to 54 age groups, each accounting for just over 5,100 individuals.
  • Females made up 48.5 percent of the county’s population compared to the state at 50.1 percent.
  • Grays Harbor County is less diverse than the state or nation, according to the 2011 data, as nearly 81.1 percent of the populations are counted as white non-Hispanic.
  • The largest minority grouping in the county is the Hispanic or Latino grouping at 8.9 percent, while the American Indian/Alaska Native category accounted for 5.1 percent of the population in 2011.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grays Harbor County Washington State
Population by age, 2011    
Under 5 years old 5.8% 6.5%
Under 18 years old 21.3% 23.2%
65 years and older 16.9% 12.7%
Females, 2011 48.5% 50.2%
Race/ethnicity, 2010
White 88.3% 82.0%
Black 1.3% 3.8%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 5.1% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.8% 8.2%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 8.9% 11.6%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

In the county, 84.4 percent of persons age 25 or older were high school graduates, compared to 89.6 percent statewide. The numbers holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher were much lower, at 14.5 percent compared to the states 31.0 percent.