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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



The recession was difficult for Lewis County industry as the unemployment rates remained higher than normal for the better part of this recent downturn. Job creation has been difficult and the return to pre-recession numbers is only now occurring. 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. Private sector employment, as well as the goods producing, service providing and government sectors have all shown improvement in 2015.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Annual average unemployment in Lewis County has been declining for the past six years. The 2009 annual average rate peaked at 13.2 percent. That has shrunk in 2015 with the average rate now at 8.4 percent. As we close out the year, the county has now seen 9 straight months of single digit unemployment, with the November preliminary figure coming in at 7.5 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 November 2015 labor force total of 31,423. In November 2010 it had registered 33,790.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In Lewis County, job numbers are improving and have surpassed losses occurring from 2010 to 2013. Specifically, there were on average 23,830 nonfarm jobs in the county in the first eleven months of 2015 compared to 23,620 in 2010.

The goods-producing sector employed 4,700 in November 2015, a gain of 290 jobs or 6.6 percent since November 2014. Manufacturing showed the largest gain, at 280 jobs (9.9 percent).

The service-providing sector gained 220 jobs since November 2014 (1.1 percent). Government was up by 40 jobs or 0.8 percent.

  • Trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities combined shed 30 jobs, with retail trade gaining 70, or 1.9 percent.
  • Private education and health services gained 120 jobs, or 3.0 percent.
  • The leisure and hospitality segment gained 60, or 2.6 percent over the year.
  • Professional and business services added 50 new positions, or 5.0 percent over the past year.

On an annual average basis, the largest component of Lewis County nonfarm employment in the first eleven months of 2015 was trade, transportation and utilities, with 21.7 percent of nonfarm employment. This was followed by government (20.9 percent) and the goods producing sector (20.0 percent). Private sector employment accounted for 79.1 percent of all nonfarm 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, 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 2014, the largest jobholder age group in Lewis County was the 55 and older age category, making up 26.0 percent of employment across all industries. The next largest share was among persons aged 45 to 54 with 22.2 percent of employment.

  • In 2014, the county’s workers mirrored state patterns with workers ages 14 to 24 dominating the accommodation and food services jobs in the county with over 31.5 percent of the positions. This age group was also well represented in arts, entertainment and recreation and retail trade.
  • Workers in the 55 year and older age category were prevalent in mining (45.5 percent), educational services (37.3 percent), transportation and warehousing (31.4 percent), real estate and rental and leasing (33.1 percent), public administration (32.2 percent) and utilities (38.8 percent). 

Females made up 49.9 percent of the labor force in Lewis County with males making up the difference at 50.1 percent in 2014. Men were more often represented in higher paying industries.

  • Male-dominated industries included mining (89.4 percent), construction (83.5 percent), manufacturing (81.5 percent) and utilities (84.2 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (75.9 percent), healthcare and social assistance (84.1 percent) and educational services (71.4 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, there were 23,587 jobs covered by unemployment insurance in Lewis County, with a total payroll of over $874.1 million.

Lewis County’s average annual wage in 2014 was $37,059, below the state’s average of $55,003.

The median hourly wage in 2014 was $18.98, below the state’s median hourly wage of $22.61 and the state excluding King County median hourly wage of $19.85. Lewis County ranked 19th in the state in its median hourly wage in 2014.

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 2013 lagged both the state and nation as Lewis County’s per capita personal income was $33,424. The U.S. average was $44,765 and the state rate was $47,717. Lewis County ranked 34th in the state in its per capita personal income in 2013.

The median household income in Lewis County was $42,917 in 2010-2014 according to U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts. The county’s median was less than the state’s ($60,294) and the nation’s ($53,482).

Over the period 2010 – 2014, 17.1 percent of the Lewis County’s population was living below the poverty level, compared with 13.2 percent for the state and the nation at 14.8 percent. 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)

The Lewis County population has declined slightly (-0.4 percent) since 2010. The largest city is Centralia, with a population of 16,623, a 0.4 percent increase since 2010.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Lewis County Washington state
Population 2014 75,128 7,061,530
Population 2010 75,455 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 -0.4% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

When compared with the state, the Lewis County population is somewhat older, although it has the same 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, 2014    
Under 5 years old 5.8% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 21.9% 22.7%
65 years and older 19.8% 14.1%
Females, 2014 50.0% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 92.9% 80.7%
Black 0.8% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.8% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.2% 8.9%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 9.7% 12.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

During the period 2010 - 2014, Lewis County persons age 25 and older had lower high school graduation rates (86.8 percent) than the state (90.2 percent) and fewer held Bachelor or higher degrees (14.1 percent) compared to the state (32.3 percent).