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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. But tax revenues and other activities such as residential real estate have yet to spring back to pre-2007 levels.

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, 2000(square miles) 1,803.7 18
Persons per square mile, 2010 16.6 29



In spite of very slow growth in the labor market and little rebound from the job losses experienced in 2009 and 2010, pockets of activity are underway in the county in 2012. Economic movement is manifesting itself in new business development and industry investment. Port Townsend Paper continues to focus on its $55 million biomass co-generation expansion project. When the project is complete, it should supply 25 megawatts of electrical power. On a related note, jobs connected to other sectors of the forest-products industry are projected to grow. At the other end of the technology spectrum, county residents are anticipating faster internet speeds in the near future. Broadband connections are a top priority of county leaders with a goal of bringing enhanced high-speed internet access to many areas of the county by the summer of 2013.

Along the waterfront, it is bustling. The construction of a new lift pier for the Port of Port Townsend work yard and Boat Haven has begun. Port officials are also considering expansion, studying the feasibility of development at its 24-acre site located near the airport. Possible businesses to be located there include light manufacturing or food processing. The Port’s goal is to support economic development that is classified as environmentally friendly. The outlook for tourism is also sunny. Occupational projections note jobs related to tourism may enjoy a slight increase in the months ahead. Tourism numbers may indeed improve if the foot-passenger ferry service from Port Townsend to Seattle moves beyond the planning process to reality. This year will bring a gas station to Quilcene for the first time in a number of years.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The revised May 2012 figure for the civilian labor force was 12,260, less than the May 2011 level of 12,410. This decrease does not indicate a large migration out of the county, but may reflect some individuals exiting the labor force.

The revised May 2012 figures showed an unemployment rate of 10.0 percent compared to 9.8 percent in May 2011. 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.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) were down by more than half in the county from a high of 442 in December 2008 to 131 in May 2012. The December 2008 number was the highest figure recorded since January 1998.


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 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.

  • Goods-producing was down 10 jobs over the year ending in May 2012, with manufacturing showing the loss. Natural resources and mining remained flat between May 2011 and May 2012.
  • Service-providing lost 200 jobs from May 2011 to May 2012. Government dropped 30 jobs 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:

As mentioned above, the population of Jefferson County is older than that of the state, which is also reflected in the labor force figures. Over 30 percent of the workforce is age 55 or older.

  • Those aged 55 and older dominated the higher paying utilities, public administration and information services jobs, while younger workers (14 to 24) made up 36.2 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. These figures are striking considering figures at the state level are more balanced with men holding 49.9 percent and women holding 50.1 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. As one can see from the table below, there are wide differences in the composition of industry sector by gender.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (85.4 percent), manufacturing (78.4 percent), and mining (73 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (83 percent), healthcare and social assistance (80 percent) and educational services (69 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 2010, Jefferson County had 8,001 jobs covered by unemployment insurance system, with a payroll of $257.1 million.

The 2010 average annual wage for Jefferson County was $32,130, below the state’s average annual wage of $48,521.

The median hourly wage in 2010 was $18.15, less than that of the state’s median hourly wage at $21.01 and for the state less King County at $18.68 (adjusted for inflation).

Median household income, according to U.S. Census QuickFacts, was $46,048, well below that of the state’s $57,244 over the period 2006 to 2010.

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 2010 was $43,065 compared to $42,589 for the state and $39,937 for the nation. Jefferson County ranked third in the state in 2010 in per capita income. It also 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, 13.5 percent of those in the county were living below the poverty level compared to 12.1 percent of the state population and 13.8 percent of the U.S. population in the period 2006 to 2010.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

The total population for Jefferson County was 29,872 in 2010. Having grown 15.1 percent since 2000 when the population figure stood at 25,953, Jefferson County’s growth rate outpaced the state’s rate of 14.1 percent by a full percentage point.

Jefferson County’s largest city, Port Townsend, had a population of 9,113 in 2010, up from 8,334 in 2000, an increase of 9.3 percent.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County Washington State
Population 2010 29,872 6,724,540
Population 2000 25,953 5,894,121
Percent Change, 2000 to 2010 15.1% 14.1%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County’s population was much older than the population of the state in 2010.

  • The county’s residents in the 65 and older category made up 26.3 percent of its population compared to 12.3 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 50.5 percent compared to that of the state at 50.2 percent in 2010.

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 1.5 percent.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County Washington State
Population by age, 2010
Under 5 years old 3.6% 6.5%
Under 18 years old 14.9% 23.5%
65 years and older 26.3% 12.3%
Females, 2010 50.5% 50.2%
Race/ethnicity, 2010
White 91.0% 77.3%
Black 0.8% 3.6%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.3% 1.5%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.8% 7.8%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 2.8% 11.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Most of Jefferson County residents age 25 and older (94.2 percent) were high school graduates, which compares favorably with 89.4 percent of Washington state’s residents and 85 percent of U.S. residents over the period 2006 to 2010.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 34.8 percent of Jefferson County residents age 25 and older compared to 31 percent of state residents and 27.9 percent of U.S. residents over the same period.