Skip Navigation

Home : Reports, data & tools : County Profiles : Kitsap County Profile

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 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, or persons per square mile.

Local economy

The Native Americans were the first residents in the area. They lived in permanent settlements, fishing, hunting and gathering. Contact with Europeans in the 1780s decimated their numbers from thousands to hundreds.

The 1850 gold rush in California triggered white settlement in the area as the demand for lumber spurred migration to the region’s great stands of timber. Shipyards sprang up in the mill towns, where lumber was shipped all over the world. 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 its ship repair facility in the 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 U.S. Navy centers at Bremerton, Keyport and Bangor continues to dominate the economy of the county as demonstrated by the more than $700 million in defense contracts in 2009.

Because of Kitsap County’s geographic configuration, the Washington State Ferry System is an important infrastructure link for Kitsap residents. In 2011, close to 6 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 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 improving slowly. The county has registered an unemployment rate consistently below the state and national averages over the years 2011 and 2012, with May’s rate for not seasonally adjusted unemployment at 7.8 percent.

Kitsap County, while facing its share of 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 jobs in the private services sector have also started to rebound with some gains seen in retail and finance. On the down side, as government continues to cut positions due to dwindling budgets, some public sector workers at the federal, state and local levels have experienced furloughs and layoffs. Infrastructure improvements in Kitsap County include major upgrades to area roads and bridges. The 80 year old Manette Bridge that connects Bremerton to East Bremerton had become unusable for certain vehicles, and it was demolished in 2011. A new bridge was built, and opened November 10th, 2011.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

As of May 2012, the civilian labor force stood at 124,310 out of a population of 251,133, slightly more than the May 2011 levels of 122,970. This may indicate some individuals re-entering the labor force, a pattern seen statewide and nationwide.

As of May 2012, the county unemployment rate was 7.8 percent compared to 8.0 percent in May 2011. Unemployment continues to create challenges for residents in the county.

Over the past decade, Kitsap County experienced an unemployment rate averaging 6 percent with lower rates during periods of stronger growth. This trend contrasts with the much higher rates beginning in February 2009. The worst of this lagging indicator of the 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 from a high of 2,203 in December 2009 to a low of 1,073 in April 2012. The December 2009 initial claims figure was the highest recorded since January 1998. For the past decade, the average monthly initial UI claims figure for the county was 1,196.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In Kitsap County, job numbers are starting to rebound, but have yet to make up for losses occurring from 2007 to 2010. Specifically, while there were 85,200 nonfarm jobs in the county in May 2012, this figure still reflects a net loss of approximately 1,100 jobs since May 2007.

Goods-producing employment remained stagnant at 5,600 jobs over the year, according to preliminary May 2012 numbers.

The service-providing sector gained 1,900 jobs since May 2011. There were some industries within this sector, however, that showed growth as well as some that lost jobs.

  • Trade, transportation and utilities gained 300 jobs from May 2011 to May 2012, and retail trade gained 200 jobs over the period.
  • The leisure and hospitality segment remained flat over the year.
  • Professional and business services added 300 new positions in over the past 12 months.

Federal and local government shed 100 jobs and the state cut 200 jobs from the ranks of public sector in the past year.

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:

Labor force participation by age reflects traditional trends with younger workers ages 16 to 24 dominating the accommodation and food services industry and also having fairly wide participation in the retail trade groups. They are minimally represented in public sector jobs, utilities or private sector educational services jobs. Workers age 55 and over are fairly evenly represented in all sectors with the exception on accommodation and food services and construction. Their numbers are concentrated in educational services, real estate, rental and leasing and transportation and warehousing.

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 2010, females held 56.8 percent and men held 43.2 percent of the jobs in Kitsap County. There were substantial differences in gender dominance by industry.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (85 percent), mining (80 percent), manufacturing (74 percent) and transportation and warehousing (71 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (80 percent), finance and insurance (77 percent) and educational services (73 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, Kitsap County recorded 81,001 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of $3.5 billion. While the number of jobs dwindled from 81,909 jobs in 2009, covered payrolls jumped by more than $59.2 million from 2009.

The 2010 average annual wage for Kitsap County was $43,441, below the state’s average annual wage of approximately $48,521.

The median hourly wage in 2010 was $18.68, less than that of the state’s median hourly wage at $21.01 but the same for the state less King County at $18.68 (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 $42,300 for 2010, below that of Washington state at $42,589 and above the nation at $39,937. Kitsap County ranks fourth in per capita income in the state, and has for the past three years.

Kitsap County’s poverty rate was 9.4 percent compared to 12.1 percent in the state and 13.8 percent in the nation in 2006-2010.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Office of Financial Management )

Kitsap County’s population was 251,133 in 2010. It grew 8.3 percent from 2000 to 2010, compared to the state’s growth rate of 14.1 percent over the decade.

Kitsap County’s largest city, Bremerton, recorded a population of 37,729 at the last census. The city has grown only slightly in the past decade (1.3 percent).

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Kitsap County Washington State
Population 2010 251,333 6,724,540
Population 2000 231,969 5,894,121
Percent Change, 2000 to 2010 8.3% 14.1%

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 13.3 percent of the county’s population compared to 12.3 percent of the state’s population.
  • There were proportionately fewer residents under 18 years of age and less than five years of age in Kitsap County compared to the state.

Females in the 2010 county population made up 49.4 percent of the population compared to 50.2 percent for the state.

Kitsap County showed less diversity in 2010 than did the state in all racial/ethnic categories except American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who accounted for 1.6 percent of the population in the county, slightly higher than the state’s percentage of 1.5 percent.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Kitsap County Washington State
Population by age, 2010
Under 5 years old 5.9% 6.5%
Under 18 years old 22.5% 23.5%
65 years and older 13.3% 12.3%
Females, 2010 49.4% 50.2%
Race/ethnicity, 2010
White 82.6% 77.3%
Black 2.6% 3.6%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.6% 1.5%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 5.8% 7.8%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 6.2% 11.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Most of Kitsap County residents age 25 and older (92.7 percent) were high school graduates, which compares favorably with 89.6 percent of Washington state’s residents and 85.0 percent of U.S. residents over the period 2006 to 2010.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 28.0 percent of Kitsap County residents age 25 and older compared to 31.0 percent of state residents and 27.9 percent of U.S. residents over the same period.