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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. But the last half of 2013 and the first 8 months of 2014 has seen the unemployment rate stay below double digits as nonfarm jobs try to bounce back in Mason county.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The last 12 months of data has shown Mason County in single digit unemployment, compared to the February 2010 high of 13.5 percent. The June 2014 rate was 6.8 percent. The labor force has declined since June 2009, when it stood at 25,100. In June 2014 it registered 22,600. Some of this drop in unemployment rate can be seen in a declining labor force. That is a situation that has been seen throughout the state and country as more people dropped out of active job searches. Some of it can also be credited with steady strength in the local job market and a return to more favorable labor market conditions.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Industry industry employment in the county has managed to stay relatively stable since 2010. There have not been any large gains, but the losses have remained minimal during these years.

The June 2014 total of 13,390 is 250 jobs fewer than in June 2013. The largest industries in the Mason County economy remain government (5,520) and trade, transportation and utilities (2,130). The manufacturing industry in June accounted for 1,310 jobs. These 2014 June totals are fairly representative of what we have seen over the course of the last couple of years. This trend will be the norm heading into 2015 as growth will come in small doses with not much in the way of large declines or losses.

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 2012 women in Mason County held 51.2 percent of the jobs with health care the most popular field, as 81.9 percent of health care jobs were filled by women. Other key female dominated industries were finance at 81.8 percent and professional, scientific and technical services at 78.7 percent.

Men were the major participants in construction at 81.4 percent, manufacturing at 81.9 percent and agricultural pursuits at 77.7 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 average annual wage in 2013 was $35,549. Within that average there were of course some highs and lows. The government employment in the county paid the highest wages averaging $43,734, followed by manufacturing at $42,583 and finance and insurance at $40,980. Service employment and specifically accommodation and food service lagged all industries as annual wages averaged $16,798 in 2013.

The median hourly wage in 2012 was $18.07, which placed it below the statewide figure of $21.64.

During the period 2008 – 2012, the poverty rate in Mason County was 17.4 percent, compared to the state at 12.9 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 2012 lagged both the state and nation as Mason County’s per capita personal income came in at $32,696. The U.S. average was $43,735 and the state rate was $46,045.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

The population of Mason County has slightly declined since 2010. The largest city is Shelton, population 9,975, with the balance of residents living in unincorporated areas.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Mason County Washington state
Population 2013 60,497 6,971,406
Population 2010 49,405 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 -0.3% 3.7%

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 less diverse than the state in terms of race and ethnicity, with 88.6 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, 2013    
Under 5 years old 5.3% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 19.5% 22.9%
65 years and older 20.6% 13.6%
Females, 2013 48.3% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 88.6% 81.2%
Black 1.3% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 4.4% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.8% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 8.6% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

During the period 2008 – 2012, 88.3 percent of persons age 25 and older were high school graduates, similar to the 90.0 rate for the state. However, only 18.3 percent held a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 31.6 percent for the state.