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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 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) 1,902.3 15
Persons per square mile, 2010 38.3 19



The outlook for 2014 is positive as the county recovers from the Great Recession. New business is cropping up as old ones reach out and expand their boundaries. The closest look shows development moving towards the coast as a winery has opened near Westport and another winery begins serving meals on the weekends, drawing more special events and more importantly more people. The Cape Cod style retreat known as Seabrook has gained further attention by adding houses to an already impressive inventory. The bottom line is tourism dollars are beginning to find their way to the coast.

The crude oil by rail issue has dominated the news in the county but a recent Aberdeen City Council vote was unanimous in its desire not to have crude oil moved by rail through Aberdeen. Where this matter ends up is not clear but it is certain we have not heard the end of this debate.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The unemployment rate in Grays Harbor has been on a decline year-over-year since January 2012. In the first three months of 2014 the figure had been hovering around 11.5 percent. The last several months, June, July and August, have seen the county unemployment rate fall out of double digits with the August preliminary rate standing at 8.6 percent. Unfortunately that doesn’t change the fact that more often than not, Grays Harbor has the highest unemployment rate in Western Washington.

If historical numbers are any indication the county rate may find double digits again once winter and seasonal factors take hold. The labor force has 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 has also been on a decline year-over-year since January 2012. In the first six months of 2014 the figure has averaged about 21,390 jobs. Service-providing industries account for the majority of those jobs, with government being the top employer. Trade, transportation and utilities account for the next highest employment sector with education and health services in third position.

Adding nonfarm jobs in the county has been inconsistent, as a review of the data shows the last three years have seen nonfarm jobs vary in a 22,830 to 21,200 range. Currently, August data show nonfarm employment declining by -1.3 percent compared to statewide growth at +2.8 percent. This will remain an issue until some sector comes forward and begins to add employment. Efforts to gain more tourism dollars have met with some success as the traditional job sectors (manufacturing) find the going tough.

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 51.6 percent of the jobs in 2012. The health care and finance and insurance section were dominated by women. Men were leaders in construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.


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 21,689 jobs in Grays Harbor County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $778.3 million.

The average annual wage in 2013 was $35,884, well below the state’s average annual wage of $53,029. The median hourly wage in 2012 was $18.30, below the state’s median hourly wage of $21.64.

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, the county’s per capita personal income was $31,848, less than the state ($46,045) and the nation ($43,735).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $42,440 in Grays Harbor County, less than the state ($59,374) and the nation ($53,046) during the same period.

Grays Harbor County’s poverty rate of 18.6 percent was well above to Washington state’s rate of 12.9 percent and the nation’s rate of 14.9 percent in the period 2008 to 2012, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Grays Harbor County’s population was forecast to be 73,200 in 2013, up from the 2010 Census count of 72,797.

  • Of the 2013 population total, 28,615 were counted as living in unincorporated areas of the county. The largest city in Grays Harbor County is Aberdeen (16,371), followed by Hoquiam (8,452) and Ocean Shores (5,615). 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 2013 73,200 6,971,406
Population 2010 72,797 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 0.6% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • The largest age category in Grays Harbor County’s population is the 55 to 59 year-olds, which make up over 5,666 of the 2013 population forecast total.
  • The next two largest groups are the 60 to64 and 50 to 54 age groups, each accounting for over 5,300 individuals.
  • Females made up 48.6 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 2013 data, as nearly 80.2 percent of the populations are counted as white non-Hispanic.
  • The largest minority grouping in the county is the Hispanic or Latino grouping at 9.6 percent, while the American Indian/Alaska Native category accounted for 5.3 percent of the population in 2013.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Grays Harbor County Washington state
Population by age, 2013    
Under 5 years old 5.6% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 21.1% 22.9%
65 years and older 18.2% 13.6%
Females, 2013 48.6% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 88.0% 81.2%
Black 1.3% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 5.3% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.8% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 9.6% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

In the county, 85.1 percent of persons age 25 or older were high school graduates, compared to 90.0 percent statewide. The numbers holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher were 14.4 percent compared to the states 31.6 percent.