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Pend Oreille County Profile

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


Regional context

Pend Oreille County is in the northeast corner of Washington. The county is bound by Canada to its north and Idaho to its east. Most of the county is dominated by the rugged, mountainous Colville National Forest. The southern part of the county has forested foothills as well as drier hills and valleys. The Pend Oreille River runs the length of the county, providing electric power and recreation for the area.

Land policies influence economic development in Pend Oreille County, especially changes regarding timber land management and mining. Only 36 percent of land in the county is privately owned, and about 58 percent is owned by the federal government. There is also a Kalispel reservation in Usk in central Pend Oreille.

Pend Oreille County is unique in terms of population density, transportation, industries and infrastructure. It is very rural with only 9.3 persons per square mile compared to 101.2 in the state. It is still similar to a frontier economy with its limited transportation and dependence on resource extraction, specifically, gold, lead and zinc mining followed by timber and cement manufacturing. These realities greatly affect job growth and job creation.

Economies with a reliance on agriculture or resource extraction tend to experience higher than average unemployment rates. This is true for Pend Oreille County, which has both high unemployment and low labor force participation compared to the state.

Local economy

Pend Oreille was partitioned out of the eastern part of Stevens County in 1911. Pend Oreille County was largely settled after the discovery of gold in the 1850s in the northern part of the county. This gold strike failed to become a major gold rush. The real mining riches were found in other hard-rock minerals: lead and zinc.

Timber became a major industry once railroad access was developed. A cement manufacturing industry also developed, benefiting from natural deposits of limestone and quartz in the northern part of the county. Much of this resource extraction was first made possible by using the Pend Oreille River for transportation, then by railroad and eventually by state highways.

Two major employment sectors in Pend Oreille County are manufacturing and government. Both have challenges to future growth. Government employment continues to face looming budget reductions and averaged 1,480 employees in 2013, which is more than 50 percent of all jobs in the county. Manufacturing employment remains weak due to improved technology and efficiencies allowing manufactures to increase production without an increase in employment.

Pend Oreille County payroll estimates grew at a healthy pace from 2000 through 2008, but experienced a decline in employment starting in 2009 which continues through 2013. The unemployment rate has remained higher than was normal for most of the prior decade, especially when compared to the state or the nation.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Pend Oreille County Rank in state
Land area, 2010(square miles) 1,399.99 25
Persons per square mile, 2010 9.3 33



The employment in Pend Oreille County was affected by the most recent recession, beginning in 2008. The recovery has been long, slow and painful. Growth over the last several years has dropped off, with small pockets of gains, but nowhere near the amount needed to replace the total employment at the peak of the business cycle.

Even with a slow rate of growth, the workforce serving Pend Oreille’s major industries presents challenges because current workers have a high average age, increasing the need for replacement workers as they begin retiring.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The Civilian Labor Force decreased in 2013 to 5,010, from the 2012 total of 5,200. The number of employed residents showed a slight decrease from 2012.

The average unemployment rate in 2013 was 11.2 percent, down from 11.6 percent in 2012. The county continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. The drop in the unemployment rate in 2013 was due to decreases in the labor force, not because of increases in jobs.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Pend Oreille County is a rural labor market with 2,780 jobs located in the county in 2013. Consequently, a large number (about 32.8 percent) of the employed residents work in jobs at firms located outside the county. It is likely that the suburban expansion of Spokane into Pend Oreille County explains part of this, but it also reflects a higher level of commuting by residents for jobs outside the county.

  • Goods-producing employment averaged 480 jobs in 2013, matching total jobs in this sector in 2012.
  • Service-providing employment averaged 2,300 jobs in 2013, down 120 jobs from 2012.
  • Government employment a subsector of Service providing averaged 1,480 in 2013 a decrease from 2012.

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

The largest jobholder age group in Pend Oreille County in 2011 was the 45 to 54 year-olds at 26.9 percent of the workforce. This percentage was closely followed by jobholders aged 35 to 44, with 20.4 percent of the workforce.

In 2011, men held 47.5 percent and women held 52.5 percent of the jobs in Pend Oreille County. There were substantial differences in gender dominance by industry.

  • Male-dominated industries included agriculture (93.9 percent), manufacturing (88.4 percent), construction (89.0 percent) and mining (86.0 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (83.4 percent), finance and insurance (84.7 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 2012, there were 2,957 jobs covered by unemployment insurance in Pend Oreille County, with a total payroll of over $117 million.

The 2012 average annual wage was $39,590, well below the state’s average annual wage of $51,964. Pend Oreille was 12th in the state in 2012 in average annual wage.

The Pend Oreille County median hourly wage in 2011 was $19.30, well below the state’s median hourly wage of $21.59. When you compare the county’s median hourly wage with the state less King County’s median hourly wage of $19.20, it compared favorably.

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.

In 2011, the per capita personal income was $30,561, less than the state ($43,878) and the nation ($41,560).

According to the U.S. Census QuickFacts, the median household income was $38,922 in 2011. The county’s median income was less than that of the state ($58,890) and the nation ($52,762).

In 2007 through 2011, 29.0 percent of the county population was living below the poverty level, much higher than the state (16.5 percent) and the nation (20.0 percent).



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Pend Oreille County’s population was 13,150 in 2013. From 2003 to 2013, the county grew at a rate of 0.8 percent compared to the state’s growth rate of 1.2 percent.

The largest city in Pend Oreille County is Newport, with a population of 2,140 in 2013.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Pend Oreille County Washington state
Population 2010 13,001 6,724,540
Population 2013 13,150 6,882,400
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 1.2% 2.3%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Pend Oreille County had an older population than the state reported in 2012.

  • Pend Oreille County’s population of those aged 60 and older was 30.2 percent compared to the state’s 19.1 percent.
  • The population under 19 years old was 22.7 percent in the county, less than that of the state’s 25.7 percent.
  • Females in 2012 made up 49.0 percent of the county’s population compared to 50.1 percent of the state.

Pend Oreille County showed much less diversity in 2012 than the state in all racial/ethnic categories except American Indians and Alaskan Natives. In Pend Oreille, American Indians and Alaskan Natives made up 3.9 percent of its population compared to 1.8 percent of the state’s population.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Pend Oreille County Washington state
Population by age, 2012
Under 5 years old 4.8% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 20.6% 23.0%
65 years and older 21.2% 13.2%
Females, 2012 49.0% 50.1
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White 91.9% 81.6%
Black 0.6% 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 3.9% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 0.7% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.5% 11.7%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Most of Pend Oreille County residents age 25 and older (89.8 percent) were high school graduates, which compares with 90.0 percent of Washington state’s residents and 85.7 percent of U.S. residents.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 17.1 percent of Pend Oreille County residents age 25 and older compared to 31.6 percent of state residents and 28.5 percent of U.S. residents.