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Mason County Profile

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


Regional context

The county now known as Mason was first established as Sawamish County in 1854. Carved out of Thurston County, it extended to the Pacific Ocean. In 1864, it was renamed Mason County. It encompasses the southern part of Hood Canal and many bays and inlets of south Puget Sound. The indigenous peoples include the Coast Salish. European contact in the 1700s brought disease that decimated the native populations. In the 1840s, American settlers arrived and began farming.

Local economy

Forest products became the largest industry in the county, and expanded greatly when the railroads made it possible to feed the various mills in the area. Work on creating a terminus for the transcontinental railroad in Union came to an abrupt halt with the Panic of 1893, the most serious economic crisis in the nation’s history. Mason County was fortunate, however, in that banker Alfred Anderson partnered with loggers to get them back to work and then with Sol Simpson to create the Simpson Logging Company, which became the largest employer in the state. In the 1980s, the Forest Service eliminated most timber sales to protect the spotted owl.

The prison in Shelton added hundreds of beds during this period, helping to offset job losses in the forest industry. Recreation as well as oyster and seafood production and processing also have increased in importance. Mason County also has become an important bedroom community for commuters to Thurston and Pierce counties.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Mason County Rank in State
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 959.42 29
Persons per square mile, 2010 63.3 15



Climbing out of the recession has been a slow process for many of the rural counties in the state and Mason County has had its struggles. But as stated earlier its geographic position between Kitsap and Thurston County has helped somewhat in moderating the unemployment rates during this recession. As we have seen during this recession, the return to “normal” is taking a lot longer than anyone has expected. The return to pre recession employment totals will be slow.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The last 30 months of data has shown Mason County remaining in double digit unemployment, with the high being tallied in January 2010 at 13.2 percent and the low 10 percent in November 2011. The labor force has remained fairly steady with the latest figures (June 2012 preliminary) showing 24,610 with 22,030 employed and 2,580 actively seeking work.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Industry employment in the county has managed to stay stable. There have not been any large gains, but the losses have remained minimal during the last couple of years.

The June 2012 preliminary total of 13,090 is 40 jobs ahead of June 2011. The largest industries in the Mason County economy remain government (5,480) and trade, transportation and utilities (1,900). The manufacturing industry in June accounted for 1,410 jobs. The 2012 June totals are fairly representative of what we have seen over the course of the last couple of years.

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 2010 women in Mason County held 52 percent of the jobs, with health care the most popular field, as 84 percent of health care jobs were filled by women. Other key female dominated industries were finance at over 82 percent and professional, scientific and technical services at 77.6 percent.

Men were the major participants in construction at over 86 percent, manufacturing at 79 percent and agricultural pursuits at over 75 percent. The 45-54 age groups for both genders supplied the largest employment category in the county.


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 county’s annual average wage in 2011 was $34,006. Within that average there were of course some highs and lows. The government employment in the county paid the highest wages averaging $42,536, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing at $41,088 and manufacturing at $39,207. Service employment and specifically accommodation and food service lagged all industries as annual wages averaged $16,540 in 2011.

The median hourly wage in the county was $17.31, which placed it below the statewide figure of $21.01.

During the period 2006 – 2010, the poverty rate in Mason County was 15.6 percent, compared to the state at 12.1 percent.

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 2010 lagged both the state and nation as Mason County’s total average personal income came in just under $30,000. The U.S. average was $39,937 and the state rate was $42,589.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

The population of Mason County grew much faster than that of the state over the past decade, with the highest growth occurring in the years 2004 through 2008. It has since dropped off to less than 1 percent annually. The largest city is Shelton, population 9,866, with the balance of residents living in unincorporated areas.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Mason County Washington State
Population 2010 60,699 6,724,540
Population 2000 49,405 5,894,121
Percent Change, 2000 to 2010 22.9% 14.1%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Mason County is somewhat older than the statewide average, with fewer individuals under the age of 18, and more 65 and older. The county is much less diverse than the state in terms of race and ethnicity, with 88.8 percent white, and 1.3 percent black. Only American Indians and Alaskan Natives are more common here than in the state.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Mason County Washington State
Population by age, 2010    
Under 5 years old 5.3% 6.5%
Under 18 years old 20.1% 23.5%
65 years and older 18.9% 12.3%
Females, 2011 48.3% 50.2%
Race/ethnicity, 2010
White 88.8% 77.3%
Black 1.3% 3.6%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 4.3% 1.5%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.7% 7.8%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 8.2% 11.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

During the period 2006 – 2010, 86.6 percent of persons age 25 and older were high school graduates, similar to the 89.6 rate for the state. However, only 17.9 percent held a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 31 percent for the state.