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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). Over the past three years, employment has grown slowly (1.7 percent per year) and steadily, but at the end of 2013 was still 150 jobs short of the previous high mark.

In 2013 the county was on pace to average 5,550 nonfarm jobs, 80 more (1.5 percent) than in 2012. Job gains were split largely between manufacturing (+40), leisure and hospitality (+40) and professional and business services (+30). Government employment fell by 30 jobs.

That same pattern holds when comparing 2013 with pre-recession employment. Manufacturing professional services and leisure and hospitality have all expanded, while government—mostly local government agencies like the county, cities and the two public hospitals—has shrunk. In addition, construction employment was running about 100 jobs below 2008 levels.


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, 2013 11.06 31



Klickitat County will likely continue to experience slow but steady growth in population and jobs over the near term. The actual employment statistics might appear stronger than that, as Insitu relocates jobs from adjacent counties into the county. The reality is that the county is part of a larger Columbia Gorge labor shed and the movement of jobs from Skamania and Hood River to Klickitat will have only a marginal effect on the county economy. The challenge for the county is develop more middle-wage jobs to provide the opportunity for more residents to work their way out of poverty.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Klickitat County’s annual average unemployment rates from 2005 to 2008 were consistently in the 6 to 7 percent range and 1.5 to 2.0 percentage points higher than Washington’s rate. The recent recession somewhat reversed the extent of these differences, not the direction. The county rate rose 11.0 percent in 2010, only a point higher than the state, before receding to 9.6 percent in 2012. The preliminary rate for 2013 looks to be just under 9.0 percent—back to two points higher than the state average.

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 2011 were as follows. Residents of Klickitat County worked in the following counties:

  • Klickitat – 39 percent .
  • Hood River – 9 percent .
  • Clark – 9 percent .
  • Wasco – 7 percent .
  • Skamania – 6 percent .
  • Other counties – 30 percent .

Workers in Klickitat County resided in the following counties:

  • Klickitat – 55 percent .
  • Skamania – 6 percent .
  • Hood River – 5 percent .
  • Wasco – 4 percent .
  • Yakima – 4 percent .
  • Other counties – 26 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. 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, along with the recent announcement that the company will be consolidating its employment in Bingen when it builds a new campus in the coming years.
  • 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 2013 came to a close, preliminary estimates showed that:

  • The county had 5,550 nonfarm jobs, up 1.5 percent over the year.
  • Private sector employment had grown by 130 jobs, or 3.5 percent.
  • Construction and mining employment was little changed over the year.
  • Manufacturing payrolls increased by 40 jobs (7.1 percent).
  • Trade, transportation and utilities hadn’t moved much.
  • Professional and business services employment rose by 30 jobs (2.7 percent).
  • Education and health services was unchanged over the year .
  • Leisure and hospitality, at +40 jobs, had the fastest growth of any sector at 10 percent .
  • Government declined by 30 jobs, all at the local level .

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 (56.8 percent) of the jobs in Klickitat County in 2012. The state is much closer to a 50/50 split.
  • Female-dominated industries included health care (75 percent), education (69 percent), accommodation and food services (63 percent) and retail trade (60 percent).
  • Male dominated industries include construction (89 percent), administration and waste services (76 percent), manufacturing (74 percent), professional services (73 percent) and agriculture (65 percent).

There were differences between the percentages of workers in Klickitat County and in Washington State by age in 2011.

  • Only 10.9 percent of workers in Klickitat County in all industries were under the age of 24 versus 12.6 percent statewide.
  • However, 26.6 percent of workers in Klickitat County in all industries were over the age of 55 versus 20.5 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 $17.85 in 2012. In comparison, the state median was $21.64 ($19.24 if King County was excluded). The median has declined slightly over the past two years. The average annual wage surged to a new high in 2012 at $45,516. A decline in the median paired with an increase in the average indicates that wages at the top end of the labor market were growing, while those in the middle were not and indeed, hourly wages were flat or slightly lower in 2012 across the wage spectrum except for the top 10 percent of jobs, which jumped by 26 percent.

In 2012, 26 percent of the jobs in Klickitat paid below $12 per hour—vs. 17 percent statewide and 21 percent for the state when King County is excluded.

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.

The increase in the average wage helped push per capita income to a new high of $43,329. Over the past twelve years, Klickitat has moved from 75 percent of the national average to only 1 percent below the nation. 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 had caught up considerably.

Household income

Recent estimates of household income estimated by the Census Bureau showed that median income (for both families and all households) had lost ground relative to the U.S. and the state. In 1999, the county’s median household income was 18 percent below the national average. For the 2008-12 period, Klickitat was 24 percent below the nation. The gap between the county and the state was larger as well. This indicates that the increase in income indicated by a rising per capita income was limited towards households above the median, while lower income households were moving in the wrong direction .

Poverty remained stubbornly high in Klickitat County, at 19.1 percent for the 2008-12 period. This was higher than the 17.0 percent for 1999 from the 2000 Census. Almost one in three children (32.3 percent) was living in poverty .

Connecting the dots, it seems reasonable that the relatively higher poverty rate and 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 20,699 in 2012. 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 (1.2 percent) and nation (0.9 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 2012 20,699 6,895,318
Population 2010 20,318 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 1.9% 2.5%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Klickitat’s population is somewhat older than the state and nation. In 2012:

  • 23 percent of the county was below the age of 19, versus 26 percent statewide.
  • 19 percent was aged 20 to 39, versus 27 percent statewide..
  • 29 percent was aged 40 to 59, slightly above the state figure of 28 percent.
  • 28 percent was aged 60 or older, far more than the state average of 19 percent.

The county is also less diverse: in 2010, 83 percent of the population was white and non-Hispanic.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Klickitat County Washington state
Population by age, 2012    
Under 5 years old 5.4% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 21.4% 23.0%
65 years and older 19.3% 13.2%
Females, 2012 49.6% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012    
White 82.7% 71.6%
Black 0.5% 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.8% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 0.9% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 11.5% 11.7%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Klickitat residents 25 years and older are somewhat less likely than state residents to have a high school degree, 87.6 percent compared to 90.0 percent.

Klickitat residents are less likely to have a college degree than in the state or nation as a whole. In 2008-12, 19.0 percent of the population aged 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher education, vs. 31.6 percent statewide.