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Klickitat County Profile

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


Regional context

Klickitat County is located in south central Washington. It was once home to the Klickitat and Wishram tribes. Non-Indian settlers began arriving in the 1850s. The economic history of the county includes sheep and cattle raising, wheat, orchards, timber, and aluminum. Klickitat County has three distinct economic regions. The western third of the county relies on advanced manufacturing, orchards and fruit packing, and wood products. The eastern third is dominated by vegetable farming and increasing numbers of wineries, as well as the Roosevelt regional landfill. The central third boasts the county seat, Goldendale, the Maryhill Museum, windsurfing and kite boarding beaches, as well as the now-shuttered aluminum smelter.

Local economy

Nonfarm employment in Klickitat County grew rapidly in the mid-1990s, peaked in 2000 and dropped sharply over the next four years before starting a recovery in 2005 that continued into mid-2009. The great recession was short and sharp in Klickitat: employment declined for twelve months (August 2009 to August 2010), falling by 450 jobs (8 percent). Since then, employment growth has been uneven and at the end of 2015 it was still 90 jobs short of the previous high mark in mid-2009.

In 2015 the county averaged 5,610 nonfarm jobs, 90 more (1.6 percent) than in 2014. Job gains were primarily in business & professional services. Leisure & hospitality employment fell by 40 jobs and there were small changes for other industries.

When comparing 2015 with 2009 employment, there have been five major changes:

  • Construction was lower by 80 jobs.
  • Transportation services was up 100 jobs.
  • Professional and business services had lost 60 jobs.
  • Local government agencies like the county, cities and the two public hospitals had cut payrolls by 90 jobs.

Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Klickitat County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 1,871.31 16
Persons per square mile, 2010 11.2 31



Klickitat County will likely continue to experience slow but steady growth in employment and population over the near term.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Over the past 25 years, unemployment in Klickitat County has slowly trended lower, as the county economy has become less dependent on resource-based jobs that tend to have large seasonal and cyclical patterns. The gap between the county and the state unemployment rate, which was typically 4 to 6 percentage points in the 1990s, has also closed and was less than a point and a half in 2015. The preliminary rate for 2015 was 6.9 percent, the second-lowest rate since 1990.

Cross-county commuting

Most employed Klickitat residents work outside of the county and many jobs in the county are held by residents of other counties. Estimates for cross-county commuting in the spring of 2013 were as follows:

Residents of Klickitat County worked in the following counties:

  • Klickitat – 39 percent.
  • Hood River – 8 percent.
  • Clark – 9 percent.
  • Wasco – 7 percent.
  • Multnomah – 6 percent.
  • Skamania – 5 percent.
  • Other counties – 27 percent.

Workers in Klickitat County resided in the following counties:

  • Klickitat – 49 percent.
  • Skamania – 7 percent.
  • Hood River – 7 percent.
  • Clark – 5 percent.
  • Wasco – 4 percent.
  • Yakima – 5 percent.
  • Multnomah – 2 percent.
  • Other counties – 22 percent.

Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Major trends and events over the last 20 years include:

  • The expansion of agriculture throughout the county, but especially in vegetable farming and vineyards in east Klickitat and fruit orchards in the western portion.
  • The closure of the aluminum smelter in Goldendale in 2001.
  • The development of the regional landfill at Roosevelt in 1992 and its subsequent expansion.
  • The establishment of Insitu, a designer and fabricator of unmanned drones, in Bingen, along with a number of its suppliers.
  • The establishment of Energy Overlay Zones (EOZ) by the Klickitat County Planning Commission which encouraged and streamlined wind farm development. Several wind farms are currently operational throughout the County. These utilities have generated a relatively small, but growing number of family-wage jobs. They have paid royalties to farms and ranches on which wind turbines are constructed, and have provided tax revenue for school, hospital, library and other districts in Klickitat County.

As 2015 came to a close, preliminary estimates showed that:

  • The county had 5,610 nonfarm jobs, up 90 jobs/1.6 percent over the year.
  • Private sector employment had grown by 100 jobs/1.6 percent.
  • Construction and mining employment was little changed over the year.
  • Manufacturing payrolls payrolls fell by 20 jobs.
  • Trade, transportation and utilities hadn’t moved much.
  • Professional and business services employment rose by 90 jobs (9.6 percent).
  • Education and health services barely changed over the year .
  • Leisure and hospitality dropped by 30 jobs.
  • Government rose by 30 jobs.

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 is a joint project of state employment departments and the Census Bureau. It matches state employment data with federal administrative data. Among the products is industry employment by age and sex. All workers covered by state unemployment insurance data are included. Federal workers and non-covered workers like the self-employed are not. Data is presented by place of work, not place of residence. Some highlights:

  • Males held a majority (56.0 percent) of the jobs in Klickitat County in 2012. The state was much closer to a 50/50 split.
  • Female-dominated industries included health care (76 percent), education (69 percent), accommodation and food services (63 percent) and retail trade (58 percent).
  • Male dominated industries include construction (83 percent), administration and waste services (76 percent), manufacturing (75 percent), professional services (71 percent) and agriculture (62 percent).

There were differences between the percentages of workers in Klickitat County and in Washington State by age in 2014.

  • Only 8.7 percent of workers in Klickitat County in all industries were under the age of 24 versus 11.2 percent statewide.
  • However, 28.2 percent of workers in Klickitat County in all industries were over the age of 55 versus 22.6 percent statewide. In relative terms, the Klickitat County labor force is older and more experienced.

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)

The median hourly wage for non-federal jobs in Klickitat County was $18.34 in 2014. In comparison, the state median was $22.61 ($19.85 if King County was excluded). The median declined slightly in 2014, was below its peak of $18.95 in 2010 and was substantially higher than the 2002-07 period when it was in the $16 per hour range. The average annual wage also declined slightly to $43,032, we below its 2012 peak of $43,032.

In 2014, 20 percent of the jobs in Klickitat paid below $12 per hour—vs. 15 percent statewide and 19 percent for the state when King County is excluded. On the upper end, 24 percent of the jobs in the county paid $30.00 per hour or more, slightly less than the 27 percent for non-King counties and further below the 35 percent at the state level.

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 increased to $45,594 in 2014, just below the all-time high from 2012. Over the past ten years, Klickitat has moved from 76 percent of the national average to only 1 percent below the nation and from 71 percent of the state average to 92 percent. Earned income, investment income and transfer payments have all grown faster at the county level than for the state and nation. County earned income was still lagging but has caught up considerably.

Beginning in the late 1990s, an increasing share of income earned by Klickitat residents came from jobs held outside the county. The percent of earned income coming from cross-county commuters increased from 18 percent in 1996 to 27 percent in 2008 before declining to 21 percent in 2014. Meanwhile the percent of earnings from jobs within the county that was earned by non-county residents has slowly trended downward from 15 percent to 12 percent.

Household income

Recent estimates of household income from the Census Bureau showed that median household income in Klickitat County has improved considerably of late. The median for the five years spanning 2010 to 2014 was $46,368, an increase of 13 percent from the 2005-09 period. Income at the state and national levels both declined over that same time period. For the 2010-14 period Klickitat was 21 percent below the nation. The gap between the county and the state was larger. This indicates that the increase in income indicated by a rising per capita income was concentrated in households above the median.

Poverty in Klickitat County dropped more than four percentage points, from 19.8 percent for the 2005-09 period to 15.6 percent in 2010-14, which matched the U.S. rate. The poverty rate for children remained at 28.2 percent, well above the state and nation.

It seems reasonable to conclude that the lower median income in the county is connected with the higher level of lower-wage jobs. A challenge for the county is to facilitate the development of more middle income jobs to help lower poverty—no easy task these days.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Klickitat County’s population was 21,000 in 2015. Some recent trends:

  • Over  the past decade, the county has grown at an average of 0.6 percent per year, matching the average for rural counties in the state but below the state (1.1 percent) and nation (0.8 percent).
  • Growth is projected to be half as much in the coming decades.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Klickitat County Washington state
Population 2010 20,318 6,724,540
Population 2000 19,161 5,894,121
Percent change, 2000 to 2010 6.0% 14.1%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Klickitat’s population is somewhat older than the state and nation. In 2014:

  • 5.1 percent was under the age of 5, compared with 6.3 percent statewide.
  • 20.5 percent of the county was below the age of 18, versus 22.7 percent statewide.
  • 21.1 percent was aged 65 or older, far more than the state average of 14.1 percent.

The county is also less diverse: in 2014, 81.9 percent of the population was white and non-Hispanic.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Klickitat County Washington state
Population by age, 2014    
Under 5 years old 5.1% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 20.5% 22.7%
65 years and older 21.1% 14.1%
Females, 2014 49.4% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014    
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino 81.9% 70.4%
Black 0.6% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.8% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.0% 8.9%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 12.3% 12.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

In 2010-14, Klickitat residents 25 years and older were somewhat less likely than state residents to have a high school degree, 87.4 percent compared to 90.2 percent.

Klickitat residents are less likely to have a college degree than in the state or nation as a whole. In 2010-14, 20.6 percent of the population aged 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher education, vs. 32.3 percent statewide.