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Kitsap County Profile

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


Regional context

Kitsap County, originally part of King and Jefferson counties, is the northern end of the Kitsap peninsula, jutting into the Puget Sound positioned between the Olympic Peninsula to the west and King County to the east. It is located between Hood Canal and Admiralty Strait. Water transportation is dominant in the culture and economy of the county. The county, initially named Slaughter County for a U.S. Army officer, was formed in 1857. Voters later changed the name to honor Kitsap, the Suquamish war chief. The county seat is at Port Orchard.

Kitsap County is one of the smallest counties in the state in terms of land area at about 395 square miles. It ranks third, however, in the state in terms of its population density, i.e. persons per square mile.

Local economy

Native Americans were the first residents in the area. They lived in permanent settlements, fishing, hunting and gathering. Contact with Europeans and the introduction of diseases such as smallpox in the 1780s decimated their numbers.

The 1850 gold rush in California triggered non-native settlement in the area as the demand for lumber spurred migration to the region’s great stands of timber. Shipyards sprang up near the mill towns, where lumber was shipped mainly to California but also across the Pacific to Asia. In the mid- to late 19th century, the Kitsap Peninsula had the distinction of having the greatest per capita income on Puget Sound.

Port Orchard was selected in the 1880s as a ship repair facility nearer to the open Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Navy established the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1891, which soon became a magnet for other businesses and workers. During other periods of conflict, military installations dotted the coastline of the county, including Fort Ward on Bainbridge Island. Today spending by the DoD including U.S. Navy centers at Bremerton, Keyport and Bangor continues to dominate the economy of the county as demonstrated by the more than $22.2 billion in defense contracts in 2014.

Because of Kitsap County’s geographic configuration, the Washington State Ferry System is an important infrastructure link for Kitsap residents. In 2014, more than 6.3 million passenger trips were taken on the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry run and more than 2.5 million trips were taken on the Seattle-Bremerton route. In the north part of the county, the boats serving the Edmonds and Kingston run hosted over 4.0 million passenger trips during the year. More than half of all ridership on the Washington State Ferries originates or ends in Kitsap County.

The Hood Canal, bordering the west side of the Kitsap Peninsula is traversed by the Hood Canal floating bridge linking Kitsap and Jefferson counties. The bridge is the third-longest floating bridge in the world and the longest crossing salt water. (Washington state’s 520 and I-90 bridges across Lake Washington are the first and second longest floating bridges in the world, respectively.)

This infrastructure supports the economy based on public sector Department of Defense jobs, as well as over 10,000 uniform service personnel based there. The balance of economic activity in the county includes a thriving gaming industry with large casinos located on tribal properties, a major medical center and a regional retail hub attracting shoppers from Kitsap County as well as the surrounding rural counties: Clallam, Jefferson and Mason.



Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Kitsap County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 394.94 36
Persons per square mile, 2010 635.9 3



The economic outlook for Kitsap County appears to be steadily improving. The county has registered an unemployment rate close to the state and national averages over the past two years, with the November 2015 rate for not seasonally adjusted unemployment at 5.0 percent compared the state at 5.4 percent.

Kitsap County, while facing economic hardships during the slow growth post-recession period, is noting increased economic activity in the form of new businesses, business growth and infrastructure improvements. New manufacturing efforts in the advanced-composites industry are taking hold and the services sector has been expanding.

Comparing the first eleven months of 2015 to those of 2014, we see a 3.5 percent increase in total nonfarm employment, with the private sector growing 2.6 percent and government growing 5.3 percent. Goods producing industries grew at 5.0 percent while service providing industries grew at 3.4 percent. The biggest gainer in the goods producing sector was construction, up 5.2 percent. Government was the biggest gainer in the services sector, up 5.3 percent. Federal government showed the most growth here, up 9.1 percent. The only decline in employment during this period was noted in professional and business services, down 1.4 percent.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

As of November 2015, the civilian labor force stood at 114,096, slightly less than the November 2014 level of 115,138. On an annual average basis, there was a slight increase in the labor force comparing the first eleven months of 2014 to 2015. Any ongoing decline may indicate some individuals are leaving the labor force or retiring, a pattern seen statewide and nationwide.

In November 2015 the county unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, compared to 6.2 percent in November 2014. Unemployment continues a steady decline in the county.  The unemployment rate will continue to remain low as confidence in the labor market conditions grow and new opportunities begin to appear.

From 2004 through 2008, Kitsap County experienced average annual unemployment rates under 5.9 percent, with lower rates during periods of stronger growth. This contrasts with the much higher rates beginning in 2009 (7.7 percent) and continuing through 2013 (7.2 percent). In the first eleven months of 2015, the average annual rate has declined to 5.6 percent.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) were down from a high of 2,203 in December 2009 to 853 in November 2015. The December 2009 initial claims figure was the highest recorded since January 1998.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In Kitsap County, job numbers are rebounding and have surpassed losses occurring from 2006 to 2012. Specifically, there were on average 87,500 nonfarm jobs in the county in the first eleven months of 2015 compared to 87,400 in 2006.

The goods-producing sector employed 6,600 in November 2015, a gain of 300 jobs or 4.8 percent since November 2014.

The service-providing sector gained 3,800 jobs since November 2014. State and local government were the only industries showing losses in this timeframe.

  • Trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities gained 900 jobs with retail trade gaining 700, or 6.6 percent.
  • The leisure and hospitality segment gained 400, or 4.8 percent over the year.
  • Professional and business services added 200 new positions, or 3.0 percent over the past year.

The largest component of Kitsap County nonfarm employment is government. This sector typically accounts for a third of the nonfarm total with a November 2015 total of 31,200 jobs (35.3 percent). Of that total, 18,600 was federal government employment. The second largest group was local government, with 10,600 jobs. State and local government both shed 100 jobs and the federal government added 1,200 jobs during the past twelve months.

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:

Industry employment by age in 2014 shows younger workers ages 14 to 24 dominating employment in the accommodation and food services industry (35.7 percent) and also having strong participation in retail trade (20.3 percent). They are minimally represented in public sector jobs, mining, utilities or private sector educational services jobs. Workers age 55 and over are fairly evenly represented in all sectors with the exception of accommodation and food services and construction. Their numbers are most concentrated in educational services, healthcare and social assistance and management.

Gender divisions in the labor force also follow typical patterns with males dominating construction, transportation and warehousing and manufacturing while females make up the majority of the labor force in health care and social assistance, finance and insurance and educational services.

In 2014, females held 62.2 percent and men held 37.8 percent of the jobs in Kitsap County. There were substantial differences in gender dominance by industry.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (84.2 percent), mining (75.9 percent), manufacturing (73.6 percent) and transportation and warehousing (73.7 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (78.4 percent), finance and insurance (73.3 percent) and educational services (72.8 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 2014, Kitsap County recorded 82,400 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of $3.8 billion.

The 2014 average annual wage for Kitsap County was $45,571, below the state’s average annual wage of approximately $55,003.

The median hourly wage in 2014 was $19.36, less than that of the state’s median hourly wage at $22.61 and the state less King County at $19.85 (adjusted for inflation).

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 income in the county was $45,533 for 2013, below that of Washington State at $47,717 and above the nation at $44,765. Kitsap County ranks fifth in per capita income in the state and has for the past three years.

Kitsap County’s poverty rate was 11.2 percent compared to 13.2 percent in the state and 14.8 percent in the nation in the period 2010-2014. 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, Office of Financial Management )

Kitsap County’s population was 254,183 in 2014. It grew 1.2 percent from 2010 to 2014, compared to the state’s growth rate of 5.0 percent.

Kitsap County’s largest city, Bremerton, recorded a population of 38,572 in 2014. The city has grown 2.0 percent since 2010.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Kitsap County Washington state
Population 2014 254,183 7,061,530
Population 2010 251,333 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 1.2% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Kitsap County’s population is somewhat older than that of the state.

  • Those residents 65 years and older made up 16.1 percent of the county’s population in 2014 compared to 14.1 percent of the state’s population.
  • There were also proportionately fewer residents under 18 years of age and less than five years of age in Kitsap County compared to the state.

In 2014 females made up 49.1 percent of the population compared to 50.0 percent for the state.

Kitsap County showed less diversity in 2014 than did the state in all racial/ethnic categories including American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who accounted for 1.8 percent of the population in the county, slightly lower than the state’s percentage of 1.9 percent.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Kitsap County Washington state
Population by age, 2014
Under 5 years old 5.7% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 20.9% 22.7%
65 years and older 16.1% 14.1%
Females, 2014 49.1% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 83.3% 80.7%
Black 2.9% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.8% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 6.4% 8.9%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 7.2% 12.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Most Kitsap County residents age 25 and older (94.1 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 during the period 2010-2014.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 30.0 percent of Kitsap County residents age 25 and older compared to 32.3 percent of state residents and 29.3 percent of U.S. residents during the same period.