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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. It faces the Pacific Ocean to the west and Hood Canal to the east. 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 is a mid-sized county, ranking 18th in the state in land area. Its population density, as measured by persons per square mile, ranks 29th among the other counties.

Local economy

Jefferson County’s current economic base grew from a rich history of natural resources extraction in logging and fishing in the late 1880s. By the turn of the 20th century, sawmills, fish processing and shipbuilding 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 Great Recession with visible signs of economic growth including new shops, new investments and rebounds in tourism. Annual taxable sales in the county have grown strongly since 2013.

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 2015 and into 2016 is one of growth in both the private and public sectors. The goods producing and service providing sectors both showed growth in 2015 compared to 2014 and reversed the downward trend that finally ended in 2013. The strongest improvements were in the construction and leisure and hospitality industries. In addition, personal income and per capita income have both been on the rise since 2011.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The preliminary November 2015 figure for the civilian labor force was 11,054, less than the November 2014 level of 11,107. 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 November 2015 figures show an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent compared to 8.6 percent in November 2014. 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 2010, 2011 and 2012. Since April 2013 the county has had single digit unemployment rates year round. Look for this trend to continue through 2016.


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 9,680. A sharp drop to 8,550 occurred in 2009 and continued through 2013. Nonfarm employment in 2014 was 8,050. Nonfarm jobs have averaged 8,260 during the first eleven months of 2015.

  • The goods-producing sector was up 20 jobs year over year ending in November 2015, with construction showing the increase. Manufacturing showed a decline of 50 jobs.
  • The service-providing sector gained 320 jobs from November 2014 to November 2015. Trade, transportation and utilities, leisure and hospitality and government all showed strong gains 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 32.8 percent of the workforce was age 55 or older in 2014.

  • Those aged 55 and older dominated the utilities, educational services and transportation services jobs, while younger workers (14 to 24) made up 27.3 percent of accommodation and food services positions.

When looking at all industries, men held 44.4 percent of the jobs while women made up 55.6 of all workers in 2014. These figures are striking considering figures at the state level are more balanced with men holding 50.9 percent and women holding 49.1 percent of the jobs. In spite of this imbalance, 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 (83.0 percent), manufacturing (74.9 percent), agriculture, and forestry and fishing and hunting (73.2 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (80.3 percent), healthcare and social assistance (80.1 percent) and educational services (69.7 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, Jefferson County had 7,920 jobs covered by unemployment insurance system, with a payroll of $273.5 million.

The 2014 average annual wage for Jefferson County was $34,532, well below the state’s average annual wage of $55,003.

The median hourly wage in 2014 was $19.56, less than that of the state’s median hourly wage at $22.61 and for the state less King County at $19.85.

Median household income, according to U.S. Census QuickFacts, was $47,202, well below that of the state’s $60,294 over the period 2010 through 2014.

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 2013 was $47,111 compared to $47,717 for the state and $44,765 for the nation. Jefferson County ranked third in the state in 2013 in per capita income. It ranked third in 2007 and 2008 and fourth in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012.

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, 14.1 percent of those in the county were living below the poverty level compared to 13.2 percent of the state population and 14.8 percent of the U.S. population in the period 2010 through 2014. 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)

The population of Jefferson County was 30,228 in 2014. It grew 1.2 percent since 2010 when the population figure stood at 29,872, less than the state’s rate of 5.0 percent.

Jefferson County’s largest city, Port Townsend, had a population of 9,255 in 2014, up from 9,113 in 2010, an increase of 1.6 percent.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County Washington state
Population 2014 30,228 7,061,530
Population 2010 29,872 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 1.2% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Jefferson County’s population was older than the population of the state in 2014.

  • The county’s residents in the 65 and older category made up 31.8 percent of its population compared to 14.1 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 50.7 percent compared to that of the state at 50.0 percent in 2014.

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 2.2 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, 2014
Under 5 years old 3.3% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 13.4% 22.7%
65 years and older 31.8% 14.1%
Females, 2014 50.7% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 91.3% 80.7%
Black 1.0% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.2% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 2.0% 8.9%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.7% 12.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Most of Jefferson County residents age 25 and older (94.4 percent) were high school graduates, which compares favorably with 90.2 percent of Washington state’s residents and 86.3 percent of U.S. residents over the period 2010 through 2014.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 37.3 percent of Jefferson County residents age 25 and older compared to 32.3 percent of state residents and 29.3 percent of U.S. residents over the same period.