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Skagit County Profile

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


Regional context

Skagit County, located in northwest Washington, is bordered to its north by Whatcom County, Snohomish County to its south and Okanagan and Chelan counties to its east. The Salish Sea lies to the west and the Cascade Mountains rise to the east. The Skagit River runs through the largest population centers of the county. Although most of Skagit County is continental, several islands in the Salish Sea are also considered part of Skagit County.

Skagit County ranges in elevation from sea level to a high point of 9,114 feet at the non-volcanic peak, Mount Buckner. Glacier Peak, located in neighboring Snohomish County, is noted by the U.S. Geologic Survey as one of the “most active and explosive of Washington’s volcanoes.” Glacier Peak shaped the geography of the Skagit River valley through tremendous mud and debris flows (lahars) that have at times traveled well over 100 miles to reach the Salish Sea.

Regionally, Skagit County is best known for its agriculture, however in 2013 the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimated that manufacturing was the largest contributor to county real gross domestic product (GDP). In 2013, manufacturing accounted for 33.4 percent of total GDP. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting accounted for 4.5 percent of GDP. Private goods and service-providing industries accounted for nearly 84 percent of GDP with about 38 percent coming from private goods-producing industries. Government was responsible for about 16 percent of local GDP.

Local economy

The Coast Salish Native Americans have lived in the Skagit River valley and the Ross Lake area for millennia. The abundant fisheries and shellfish provided the major sources of protein for the Coast Salish, while fiddleheads from bracken ferns were encouraged by managed fires and camas were cultivated for their bulbs.

Settlement by non-natives began in earnest in the 1860s. Agriculture got its start when settlers discovered that creating dikes to hold back the Skagit River made much of the land suitable for farming. Logging and mining were also major industries.

The 1890s brought fish canneries, which prolonged the early development boom. County agriculture later expanded to seed production and eventually tulip growing. With the advent of modern vegetable freezing, agricultural production expanded further. Dairy production is also a large part of farming in the county today.

Like the national economy, Skagit County’s largest job providing sector is the private service-providing sector, making up 57.2 percent of total nonfarm employment in 2014. Within private services, retail trade and health and social services contribute the largest employment bases. Local government made up 19.5 percent of nonfarm jobs in 2014, with most of those jobs falling in K-12 education.

During the recent recession, goods-producing jobs fell from a peak 21.2 percent share of nonfarm jobs in 2007 to 17.4 percent in 2011. By 2014, these hard-hit industries made up a 19.6 percent share of total nonfarm employment.

The county has some heavy industry including oil refineries in Anacortes and a number of manufacturers that support the marine and aerospace industries, food manufacturing and other niche manufacturing businesses that contribute to a fairly well-rounded economy.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau; Washington Office of Financial Management)

Skagit County Rank in state
Land area, 2015 (square miles) 1,731.2 21
Persons per square mile, 2015 69.7 14



Skagit County’s peak employment level on an annual basis was reached in 2007, just before the recession. Relative to Washington state, Skagit County entered the recession early, experienced a greater decline and took longer to see initial green shoots signaling a recovering labor market.

Washington state and the U.S. both reached their lowest employment levels in 2010 and began to recover from there; Skagit County’s entry into post-recession recovery lagged by a year. From 2007 to 2011, Skagit County shed 3,400 jobs or just over 7 percent. Recovery began tentatively in 2012 and really began to take hold in 2013. From 2013 to 2014, Skagit County businesses added 900 jobs, with growth being reported in most sectors. Growth observed over the past couple years has been spread across most sectors and has been steady.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Skagit County’s civilian labor force averaged 56,640 in 2014. Of that, 52,426 people were employed and 4,214 were estimated to be unemployed and actively seeking work. The average unemployment rate in 2014 was 7.4 percent.

During the recent period of recession and recovery, the peak unemployment rate in Skagit County (12.9 percent) was observed in January, 2010. The average unemployment rate that year was 10.9 percent. Since reaching peak unemployment levels in 2010, the unemployment rate has been declining. The unemployment rate in July 2015 was down to 6.6 percent.

The resident labor force in Skagit County is seasonal in nature, primarily due to the large and highly-visible agricultural sector. Late every summer, the labor force swells and it contracts during off-peak seasons. Similar to many other places in the U.S., the labor force in Skagit County stagnated in the post-recession period. From 2010 to 2011, the resident labor force dropped by about 2,000 residents and has changed very little since then.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Skagit County averaged 47,300 nonfarm jobs in 2014, up from 46,500 observed in 2013. From 2013 to 2014, total employment increased by an average of 1.9 percent. This is down on a percentage basis from the growth rate observed the previous year. Washington state as a whole saw the addition of 77,600 jobs over the same time period, an increase of 2.6 percent.

  • Goods-producers supplied an average of 9,300 jobs in 2014, up 7.0 percent from 2013.
    • Manufacturing employment in Skagit County fell by 900 or 15.5 percent from peak employment in 2007 to the lowest observed levels in 2010. From 2010 to 2014, one thousand manufacturing jobs were created. Manufacturing as a whole has topped pre-recession employment levels.
    • Skagit County’s manufacturing base is diverse. The three largest manufacturing industries in terms of employment are food manufacturing, machinery manufacturing and petroleum and coal products manufacturing. Although recovery took a long time, manufacturing is one industry that has played an instrumental role in Skagit County’s recovery.
    • Construction employment tumbled from 2007 to 2011, shedding 1,600 or about 36 percent of all jobs over that time period. From 2011 to 2013, construction industry employers have collectively created about 600 new jobs. Construction industry employment expanded by nearly 10 percent over the past year. Recovery is evident, but it will take a long time to recover the sheer number of jobs lost to the recession.
  • Private service-providing employment averaged 27,100 in 2014. From 2013 to 2014, private-sector service-providers added 300 jobs, growing by 1.3 percent. Over the course of the employment recession, private sector service-providers collectively lost 1,500 jobs or 5.3 percent. By 2014, the tally of private service jobs was only 200 shy of the pre-recession peak. Employment gains were observed in all of Skagit County’s other major private sectors over the past year. 
  • Government employment in Skagit County is concentrated in local government and includes public K-12 education in addition to county, local and tribal government functions. Government employment contracted by 100 jobs (0.8 percent) from 2013 to 2014.

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:

In 2014, Skagit County’s labor market was slightly older than that of the state. Statewide, 22.6 percent of the workforce was age 55 or older. Compare with Skagit County where 25.0 percent of the workforce was age 55 or older.

As a whole, employment in Skagit County was evenly split between men and women. Compare to the state, which is characterized by a slightly-more male in its composition.

  • Male-dominated industries included mining (85.7percent), construction (83.3 percent), transportation and warehousing (78.7 percent), manufacturing (76.2 percent) and utilities (74.3 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (78.9 percent), finance and insurance (74.7 percent) and educational services (71.6 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, Skagit County averaged 48,289 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of nearly $2.0 billion dollars.

The county’s 2014 average annual wage was $41,320.

In 2013, Skagit County’s median hourly wage was $18.99, lower than the state median of $22.09.

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 2013, per capita personal income in Skagit County was $42,927, below both the state ($47,717) and the U.S. ($44,765). Compared to other counties throughout Washington state, Skagit County ranked 11th (out of 39) for highest personal income.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Skagit County’s median household income in 2013 was $52,448, which was below the state median household income ($58,405), but higher than the national median ($52,250).

In 2013, 17.8 percent of Skagit County’s population was estimated to be living below the official poverty line. The statewide average was 14.1 percent, while the national average stood at 15.8 percent. The poverty rate for children in Skagit County was 24.5 percent.



(Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis; Washington Office of Financial Management)

Skagit County’s population was estimated to be 120,620 for 2015. The county’s population expanded 9.7 percent from 2005 to 2015. This was lower than the statewide population growth rate of 12.1 percent over the same time period.

The largest city in Skagit County is Mount Vernon (population 33,530 in 2015), up 18.1 percent in 10 years. The next largest cities are Anacortes, Sedro-Woolley, Burlington and La Conner.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis; Washington Office of Financial Management)

Skagit County Washington state
Population 2015 120,620 7,061,410
Population 2005 109,977 6,298,822
Percent change, 2005 to 2015 9.7% 12.1%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

The age distribution of Skagit County residents compared to the state and the nation reflects a smaller traditional working-age population and a larger 55 and older population. The proportion of children age 0-15 is similar to that of the state and the nation.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Skagit County Washington state
Population by age, 2014
Under 5 years old 6.1% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 22.5% 22.7%
65 years and older 18.7% 14.1%
Females, 2014 50.4% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 90.8% 80.7%
Black 0.9% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.7% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 2.5% 8.9%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 17.8% 12.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

In Skagit County, 88.2 percent of adults age 25 and older during the period 2010 - 2014 were estimated to have graduated from high school. This compares to 90.2 percent for Washington state.

There were proportionately fewer residents in Skagit County with college degrees than in the state. 24.5 percent of Skagit County residents age 25 and up had completed bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared to 32.3 percent for the state. Skagit County residents were more likely, however, to have attended some college compared to the state and the nation.