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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 2012 the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimated that manufacturing was the largest contributor to county real gross domestic product (GDP), which is an inflation-adjusted dollar measure of final output produced by the county. In 2011, manufacturing accounted for about 36 percent of total GDP. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting accounted for about 3 percent of GDP. Private goods and service-providing industries accounted for about 86 percent of GDP with more than half coming from private goods-producing industries. Government was responsible for about 14 percent of GDP in 2012.

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 in private services, with a 57.6 percent share of jobs. During the recent recession, goods-producing jobs fell from a 21.2 percent share of nonfarm jobs in 2007 to 17.4 percent in 2011. By 2013, the recovery was evident, as the share of goods production increased to 18.5 percent.

Local government had a 20.0 percent share of employment in 2013, with most of that being in K-12 education. The county has some heavy industry with oil refineries in Anacortes and some yacht and tugboat builders. There is some niche manufacturing and a large variety of other small businesses that create a fairly well-rounded economy.


Geographic facts

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

Skagit County Rank in state
Land area, 2014 (square miles) 1,731.2 21
Persons per square mile, 2014 69.03 14



Skagit County’s peak nonfarm employment level on an annual basis was reached in 2007, just before the recession. From peak-to-trough, Skagit County shed 3,500 jobs or just over 7 percent. 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 began to recover in 2010; Skagit County’s recovery lagged by a year). Recovery began tentatively in 2012 and really began to take hold in 2013. From 2012 to 2013, the Skagit County recovered 1,300 jobs, with growth being reported in most sectors. Growth witnessed over the past couple years has been spread across 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 55,880 in 2013. Of that, 51,260 people were employed and 4,620 were estimated to be unemployed and actively seeking work.

During the recent period of recession and recovery, the peak unemployment rate in Skagit County (12.7) was reached in February 2010. The average unemployment rate that year was 10.7 percent. The unemployment rate has been falling slowly but consistently throughout 2012 and 2013. The unemployment rate in July 2014 was down to 5.8 percent.

The resident labor force in Skagit County is seasonal in nature, largely due to the large and highly-visible agricultural sector. Late every summer, the labor force swells and it contracts during off peak seasons. From 2002 to 2008, the Skagit County labor force averaged 1.9 percent growth per year. Since reaching peak levels in 2008, the labor force in Skagit County has been sliding.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Skagit County averaged 46,400 nonfarm jobs in 2013, up from the 2012 approximation of 45,100. From 2012 to 2013, total employment increased an average of 2.8 percent. Washington state as a whole saw the addition of 65,600 jobs over the same time period; an increase of 2.2 percent.

  • Goods-producers supplied an average of 8,600 jobs in 2013 up 7.1 percent from 2012.
    • Manufacturing employment in Skagit County fell by 900 or 15 percent from its peak in 2007 to its lowest levels in 2010. From 2010 through 2013, six hundred manufacturing jobs (13 percent) have been recovered. 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.
    • Construction employment tumbled from 2008 to 2011, losing 1,600 or nearly 36 percent of jobs over that time period. From 2011 through 2013, construction has recovered about 300 jobs or nearly 10 percent.
  • Private service-providing employment averaged 26,700 in 2013. From 2012 through 2013, service-providers added 600 jobs or 2.3 percent. Employment gains were observed in all of Skagit County’s major sectors; however the largest gains were witnessed in leisure and hospitality. As of July 2014, all sectors are continuing to experience modest yet consistent growth.
  • Government employment in Skagit County is concentrated in local government and includes public K-12 education. Government employment expanded by 1 percent from 2012 to 2013.

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 2012, Skagit County’s labor market was slightly older than that of the state. Statewide, 20.9 percent of the workforce is age 55 or older. Compare with Skagit County where 23.5 percent of the workforce is age 55 or older.

Males held 49.1 percent of jobs and females held 50.9 percent of jobs in 2012.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (85.7percent), transportation and warehousing (78.9 percent), manufacturing (77.0 percent) and mining (75.2 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (79.8 percent), finance and insurance (74.6 percent) and educational services (71.9 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 2013, Skagit County averaged 47,272 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of nearly $1.9 billion.

The county’s 2013 average annual wage was $40,060.

In 2012, Skagit County’s median hourly wage was $18.64, lower than the state median of $21.64.

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 2012, the $40,456 per capita personal income in Skagit County was below both the state ($46,045) and the U.S. ($43,735) averages. 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 was $53,400 in 2012, which was below the state median household income ($57,573), but higher than the national median ($51,371).

In the period 2008-2012, 12.6 percent of Skagit County’s population was living below the official poverty line. The statewide population average was 12.9 percent, while the national average stood at 14.9 percent.



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

Skagit County’s population is estimated to be 119,500 in 2014. Its total growth from 2004 to 2014 was 10.1 percent, lower than the 12.2 percent growth rate for the state over the same period.

The largest city in Skagit County is Mount Vernon (population 33,170 in 2014), up 18.8 percent in 10 years. The next largest cities are Anacortes, Sedro-Woolley, Burlington and La Conner.

Population facts

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

Skagit County Washington state
Population 2014 119,500 6,968,170
Population 2004 108,494 6,208,527
Percent change, 2004 to 2014 10.1% 12.2%

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 much larger 55+ 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, 2013
Under 5 years old 6.2% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 22.7% 22.9%
65 years and older 18.1% 13.6%
Females, 2013 50.4% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 91.1% 81.2%
Black 0.9% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.7% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 2.4% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 17.6% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

In Skagit County, 89.4 percent of adults age 25 and older were reported to have graduated from high school during the period 2008-2012. This figure compares somewhat less favorably to 90.4 percent for Washington state.

There were proportionately fewer residents in Skagit County with college degrees than in the state. Fewer than 25 percent of Skagit County residents age 25 and older had completed bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared to 31.7 percent for the state. Skagit County residents were more likely, however, to have attended some college compared to the state and the nation.