Skip Navigation

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

Lewis County Profile

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


Regional context

Lewis County, located in southwestern Washington, is the sixth largest county in the state. The Chehalis and Cowlitz rivers are the two major rivers in the county. Lewis, named for Meriwether Lewis, was created as a county in 1845. Its original borders encompassed half of Washington state and British Columbia. The Chehalis and Meshall tribal people inhabited this area prior to white explorers and settlers, but their numbers were decimated by disease. Many of these settlers worked in the trading posts as well as the Hudson Bay commercial farm that provided the trading posts.

Local economy

Once the railroad was established, logging and milling attracted immigrants and in-migrants. Labor organizers were outraged by the unsafe working conditions and low wages in this industry. In 1919, a gun battle erupted between members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and some World War I veterans, and is known as the “Centralia Massacre.

The 1920s brought hard times to Lewis before the Great Depression took hold. World War II increased the demand for wood and farm products, lifting the Lewis County economy again. Its economy has continued boom and bust cycles over its history.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Lewis County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 2,402.8 6
Persons per square mile, 2010 31.4 22



This recession has been difficult on Lewis County as its unemployment rates have remained one of the highest in the state for the better part of this downturn. Without the aid of the Puget Sound corridor, job creation has been difficult and the return to pre-recession numbers is going to take time and patience, which is typical for this economy. With unemployment dropping and nonfarm employment adding jobs the outlook is positive for the county as it continues to distance itself from the crippling recession.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Unemployment over the last 66 months has been high. The February 2010 rate peaked at 16.2 percent. Those figures have shrunk in 2014with the June rate at 8.0 percent. As we enter fall the county has now seen 5 straight months of single digit unemployment, with the August preliminary figure coming in at 8.5 percent. Some of this has to do with a shrinking labor force but the other part of the equation is improving labor market conditions.

The labor force in the county has been on a slow decline for several years, as evidenced by the June 2014 labor force total of 27,430. In June 2009 it registered 31,620.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Industry employment has struggled as June 2014 data suggests. The nonfarm total of 23,090 is 410 below June 2013 totals and lags pre-recession totals in June 2009 by 1,150. In June 2014 the trade sector employed the greatest number of people, 5,110 and government accounted for another 4,760. The natural resource dependent economy of the 80’s may be gone, but manufacturing still accounted for a share of employment and wages at 3,020 jobs. The most recently released data, August preliminary, suggests that nonfarm employment is expanding at 2.2 percent, just slightly below the statewide average of 2.8 percent. This is another indication that the labor market situation is improving in Lewis County.

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 is presented by place of work, not place of residence. Some highlights:

In the year 2012 women held 51.1 percent of all the jobs in the county, concentrated in health care (84.9 percent), finance (77.0 percent) and Educational services (71.7 percent). Men dominated in the fields of mining, utilities, manufacturing and construction, holding over 80 percent of all jobs in those sectors. The 45-54 age category for both males and females was employed at the highest rate.


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 average annual wage in 2013 was $35,670. Within that average there were of course some highs and lows. The manufacturing industry in the county paid the highest wages at $49,246, followed by mining at $48,958. Service employment and specifically arts, entertainment and recreation lagged all industries as wages averaged $9,967 in 2013.

The median hourly wage in the county in 2012 was $17.98, which placed it below the statewide figure of $21.64.

Over the period 2008 – 2012, 13.9 percent of the county’s population was living below the poverty level, compared with 12.9 percent for the state.

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.

Personal income in 2012 lagged both the state and nation as Lewis County’s per capita personal income was $32,056. The U.S. average was $43,735 as the state rate was $46,045.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

The Lewis County population has declined slightly since 2010. The largest city is Centralia, with a population of 16,660.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Lewis County Washington state
Population 2013 75,081 6,971,406
Population 2010 75,455 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 -0.5% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

When compared with the state, the Lewis County population is somewhat older, although it is the same in terms of the gender ratio. Far more residents identify themselves as white when compared to the state and all other groups represent a lower proportion of the county population than the state as well.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Lewis County Washington state
Population by age, 2013    
Under 5 years old 5.9% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 22.2% 22.9%
65 years and older 19.0% 13.6%
Females, 2013 50.0% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 93.1% 81.2%
Black 0.8% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.8% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.2% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 9.4% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Persons age 25 and older had lower high school graduation rates (85.8 percent) than the state (90.0 percent) and fewer held Bachelor or higher degrees (14.9 percent) compared to the state (31.6 percent), during the period 2008 - 2012.