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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 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. The Skagit River is home to five native salmon species.

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, though located in 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 2011 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, nondurable goods manufacturing accounted for about 43 percent of GDP, while durable goods manufacturing accounted for about 5 percent of GDP. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting accounted for about 2 percent of GDP in 2011. Private goods and service-providing industries accounted for about 88 percent of GDP with more than half coming from private goods-producing industries. Government was responsible for about 12 percent of GDP in 2011.

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 57.7 percent share of jobs. Due to the recent recession, goods-producing jobs have fallen from a 21.4 percent share of nonfarm jobs in 2000 to a 17.7 percent share in 2012.

Local government had a 20.7 percent share of employment in 2012, 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 QuickFacts)

Skagit County Rank in state
Land area, 2013 (square miles) 1,731.2 21
Persons per square mile, 2013 68.5 13



Skagit County’s peak employment level on an annual basis was reached in 2007, just before the recession. From peak-to-trough, Skagit County shed 3,700 jobs or 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 US both began to recover in 2010; Skagit County’s recovery has lagged by a year). As of 2012, Skagit County is still lagging the state and the nation in its recovery. It will take time to rebuild the economy; the local outlook points to a slow yet steady recovery.


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 57,190 in 2012. Of that, 51,950 people were employed and 5,240 were estimated to be unemployed and actively seeking work.

During the recent period of recession and recovery, the peak unemployment rate in Skagit County (12.6) 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 June 2013 was down to 8.7 percent.

The resident labor force in Skagit County is seasonal in nature, largely due to the large and highly-visible agricultural sector. Every summer, the labor force swells and contracts during the 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 declining.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Skagit County averaged 44,500 nonfarm jobs in 2012, up from the 2011 approximation of 43,900. From 2011 to 2012, total employment increased an average of 1.4 percent. Washington state as a whole saw the addition of 42,300 jobs over the same time period; an increase of 1.5 percent.

  • Goods-producers supplied an average of 7,900 jobs in 2012, up 1.4 percent from 2011.
    • Manufacturing employment in Skagit County began to climb from 2010 to 2011, but slid back, losing 100 jobs or just over 1 percent from 2011 to 2012. The first several months of 2013 saw increases of employment above levels seen in 2011 or 2012. All signs point to a recovering manufacturing sector. 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 to 2012, construction has recovered about 200 jobs. Construction has been growing in 2013 and is expected to expand over the next couple years.
  • Private service-providing employment averaged 25,700 in 2012. From 2011 to 2012, service-providers added 400 jobs or 1.6 percent.
    • Retail sales and leisure and hospitality each added 100 to their payrolls year-to-year. The first several months of 2013 show a continuing trend of growth for both industries.
  • Government employment in Skagit County is concentrated in local government and includes public K-12 education. Government employment expanded by 1 percent from 2011 to 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:

In 2011, the largest 10-year span jobholder age group was 45 to 54, with 22.8 percent of jobs across all industries. The next largest share is among persons aged 25 to 34 with 20.8 percent of jobs.

Males held 48.9 percent of jobs and females held 51.1 percent of jobs in 2011.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (85.8 percent), mining (79.6 percent), manufacturing (78.0 percent) and transportation and warehousing (78.5 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (80.1 percent), finance and insurance (73.9 percent) and educational services (71.8 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, Skagit County averaged 45,799 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a payroll of slightly more than $1.8 billion.

The county’s 2012 average annual wage was $39,328.

In 2011, the county’s median hourly wage was $18.39, lower than the state median of $21.59.

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 $38,543 per capita personal income in Skagit County was below both the state ($43,878) and the U.S. ($41,560) averages. Compared to other counties throughout Washington state, Skagit County ranked 10th (out of 39) for highest personal income.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Skagit County’s median household income in 2011 was $52,519, which was below the state median household income ($56,835), but higher than the national median ($50,502).

In 2011, 15.1 percent of Skagit County’s population was living below the official poverty line. The statewide population average was 13.9 percent, while the national average stood at 15.9 percent.



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

Skagit County’s population was 118,600 in 2013. Its total growth from 2003 to 2013 was 11.2 percent, lower than the 12.3 percent growth rate for the state over the same period.

The largest city in Skagit County is Mount Vernon (population 32,710 in 2013), up 20.1 percent in 10 years. The next largest cities are Anacortes, La Conner, Sedro-Woolley and Burlington.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Skagit County Washington state
Population 2013 118,600 6,882,400
Population 2003 106,647 6,126,892
Percent change, 2003 to 2013 11.2% 12.3%

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 0-18 is similar to that of the state and the nation.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Skagit County Washington state
Population by age, 2012
Under 5 years old 6.4% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 23.2% 23.0%
65 years and older 17.4% 13.2%
Females, 2012 50.4% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White 91.3% 81.6%
Black 0.9% 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.7% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 2.3% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 17.3% 11.7%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

In Skagit County, 86.7 percent of adults age 25 and up in 2011 were reported to have graduated from high school. This figure compares somewhat less favorably to 90.1 percent for Washington state.

There were proportionately fewer residents in Skagit County with college degrees than in the state. Just over 25 percent of Skagit County residents age 25 and up had completed bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared to 31.9 percent for the state. Skagit County residents were more likely to have attended some college or earned their associate’s degree compared to the state and the nation.