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Jefferson County Profile

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


Regional context

Jefferson County is located on the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington state. Jefferson County is nestled between the Admiralty Inlet and Clallam, Mason, Grays Harbor and Kitsap counties. Named for President Thomas Jefferson, it was created in 1852 from a portion of Lewis County. The county seat is Port Townsend.

Much of the county is publicly owned land. About 60 percent of the county comprises the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest, and roughly 20 percent is under the jurisdiction of federal and state agencies. The Hoh Reservation and a small corner of the Quinault Reservation are also located in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County’s land area shows it to be a mid-sized county, ranking 18th in the state. Its population density, measured by persons per square mile, indicates a rural county that ranks 29th among the other counties.

Local economy

Jefferson County’s current economic base grew from a rich history of natural resources development in logging and fishing in the late 1880s. By the turn of the 20th century, sawmills, fish processing and ship and boatbuilding were firmly established in the coastal areas of the county. The county also was known for smuggling spirits from Canada in and out of the county’s many hidden coves and forests during prohibition.

Port Townsend, the economic center of the county, has experienced periods of boom and bust over the century due to its dependency on these volatile industries. During 2011, Port Townsend finally started to recover from the 2007 to 2009 Great Recession with visible signs of economic growth with new shops, new investments and rebounds in tourism. Tax and other city revenues in 2012 exceeded those of 2006.

The economy of Jefferson County is comprised of both an industrial and an agricultural base. Industrially, the county’s history, climate and terrain support healthy forest products and maritime sectors, including lumber, fish processing, ship repair and maintenance as well as ship and boatbuilding. The agricultural base encompasses tree farms for logging, aquaculture and a flourishing organic farming sector. Food production, stemming from this growing agricultural segment, includes artisan cheeses and breads. Tourism also provides revenue streams to the county. Economic activity is supported by a vibrant port and airport, ferry terminal and state highways.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County Rank in state
Land area, 2010(square miles) 1,803.7 18
Persons per square mile, 2010 16.6 29



The outlook for Jefferson County for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015 is one of hanging on to what we have. Any growing sectors in this economy are going to come at a premium as the numbers point to an economy that is showing little noticeable change. There is however a concerted effort to bring tourism to the forefront as the 2014 Olympic Peninsula Tourism Summit in October will again address tourism and how the area entities can work together to improve economic performance in this industry. The leisure and hospitality industry is one of the sectors that expects to see small declines in Jefferson County.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The revised June 2014 figure for the civilian labor force was 11,150, less than the June 2013 level of 11,430. This decrease does not indicate a large migration out of the county, but may reflect some individuals exiting the labor force. This has been a trend seen across the state and country.

The June 2014 figures showed an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent compared to 8.7 percent in June 2013. Unemployment continues to create challenges for residents in the county. Over the past decade, Jefferson County experienced an unemployment rate averaging 5.5 percent during periods of growth, which is low for a rural county. This average contrasts with the near double-digit rates in the winter months of 2009, 2010 and 2011. The worst of this Great Recession now may be reversing with the memories of double-digit unemployment rates beginning to fade since mid-2013. In fact since April 2013 the county has remained in single digit unemployment. Look for this trend to continue thru 2014.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In Jefferson County, the nonfarm sector has still not rebounded from the sharp losses resulting from the Great Recession. In 2006, total nonfarm jobs within the county totaled approximately 9,610. A sharp drop to 8,540 occurred in 2009 and has continued ever since, but at a slower pace. Nonfarm employment in June 2014 was 8,090. Nonfarm jobs have remained below 2012 levels as employment within the county has proven to be a tough sell. The last couple years in the county has seen nonfarm jobs hovering around the 7,800 to 8,000 mark with little to pick from as far as loss and gains.

  • Goods-producing was up 40 jobs over the year ending in June 2014, with manufacturing showing the increase. Natural resources and mining declined between June 2013 and June 2014.
  • Service-providing lost 40 jobs from June 2013 to June 2014. Government employment was stable over the period.

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:

The population of Jefferson County is older than that of the state, which is also reflected in the labor force figures. Over 31 percent of the workforce was age 55 or older in 2012.

  • Those aged 55 and older dominated the utilities, educational services and transportation services jobs, while younger workers (14 to 24) made up 35.4 percent of accommodation and food services positions.

When looking at all industries, men held 44.2 percent of the jobs while women made up 55.8 of all workers in 2012. These figures are striking considering figures at the state level are more balanced with men holding 50.4 percent and women holding 49.6 percent of the jobs. In spite of the imbalance across industries as a total, males in the county tended to be employed in higher wage jobs in what are generally considered traditionally male fields such as manufacturing and construction. There are wide differences in the composition of industry sector by gender in Jefferson County.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (84.5 percent), manufacturing (76.9 percent), agriculture, forestry and fishing and hunting (77.5 percent) and mining (72.2 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (81.1 percent), healthcare and social assistance (80.5 percent) and educational services (68.8 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, Jefferson County had 7,787 jobs covered by unemployment insurance system, with a payroll of $268.6 million.

The 2013 average annual wage for Jefferson County was $34,497, well below the state’s average annual wage of $53,029.

The median hourly wage in 2012 was $18.75, less than that of the state’s median hourly wage at $21.64 and for the state less King County at $19.24).

Median household income, according to U.S. Census QuickFacts, was $46,870, well below that of the state’s $59,374 over the period 2008 through 2012.

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.

Per capita personal income in Jefferson County in 2012 was $44,946 compared to $46,045 for the state and $43,735 for the nation. Jefferson County ranked fourth in the state in 2012 in per capita income. It ranked third in 2007 and 2008 and fourth in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Given its rural classification, it is not too surprising that Jefferson County has a slightly higher poverty rate than that of the state. According to the U.S. Census QuickFacts, 13.7 percent of those in the county were living below the poverty level compared to 12.9 percent of the state population and 14.9 percent of the U.S. population in the period 2008 through 2012.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

The population of Jefferson County was 30,076 in 2013. It grew 0.7 percent since 2010 when the population figure stood at 29,872, less than the state’s rate of 3.7 percent.

Jefferson County’s largest city, Port Townsend, had a population of 9,210 in 2013, up from 9,112 in 2010, an increase of 1.1 percent.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County Washington state
Population 2013 30,076 6,971,406
Population 2010 29,872 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 0.7% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County’s population was much older than the population of the state in 2013.

  • The county’s residents in the 65 and older category made up 30.5 percent of its population compared to 13.6 percent of the state’s population.
  • There were proportionately fewer young residents in Jefferson County compared to the state.

There were proportionately more females in the county’s population at 50.6 percent compared to that of the state at 50.0 percent in 2013.

The population also includes a much smaller percentage of people of color than the state averages with the exception of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who accounted for 2.3 percent of the population in the county, higher than the state’s percentage of 1.9 percent.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County Washington state
Population by age, 2013
Under 5 years old 3.4% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 13.8% 22.9%
65 years and older 30.5% 13.6%
Females, 2013 50.6% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 91.3% 81.2%
Black 1.1% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.3% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 2.0% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.3% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Most of Jefferson County residents age 25 and older (93.9 percent) were high school graduates, which compares favorably with 90.0 percent of Washington state’s residents and 85.7 percent of U.S. residents over the period 2008 through 2012.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 35.3 percent of Jefferson County residents age 25 and older compared to 31.6 percent of state residents and 28.5 percent of U.S. residents over the same period.