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Snohomish County Profile

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


Regional context

Snohomish County is situated between northern Puget Sound to the west and the crest line of the North Cascade Range. It shares its northern border with rural Skagit County and borders King County to the south. Snohomish County is separated from Camano Island (part of Island County) by Davis Slough. The highest point in Snohomish County is Granite Peak (10,541 feet).

Due to its proximity to and shared labor market with King County, Snohomish County is incorporated into the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett Metropolitan Division and the Seattle-Tacoma- Bellevue Metropolitan Statistical Area, as designated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The geographic distribution of population, economic activity and land use in Snohomish County is diverse, with a mix of rural and urban zones. For the most part, population centers in the county are oriented south in proximity to the border with King County and west along Interstate 5. By contrast, north and east Snohomish County are characterized by smaller cities, farms and reservations.

The county ranks 13th statewide in terms of total land area (2,087.27 square miles) and is the 7th most densely populated county in Washington, with 349.98 people per square mile in 2013.

Local economy

Snohomish County has been, and continues to be home to a number of Native American tribes. Early economic history of the county is characterized by an abundance of natural resources in a diverse ecological region.

European settlement of Puget Sound, including what is now Snohomish County, followed Captain George Vancouver’s claim of much of western Washington for Great Britain in 1792. Snohomish County was carved out of Island County in 1861, and the late 19th century saw the establishment of several settlements in western Snohomish County. The Great Northern Railway reached the newly-established city of Everett, bringing an economic boom to the area. Snohomish County’s early industrial economy thus continued to be based on the availability of abundant natural resources - primarily timber and farming.

Following World War II, Snohomish County’s economic growth expanded through the establishment of suburban cities oriented toward Seattle in the southwestern part of the county.

Home-grown multinational corporation Boeing traces its roots to the Seattle metropolitan area, and continues to play a prominent role in Snohomish County’s economic make up. In the late 1960s, Boeing established its 747 manufacturing plant at Paine Field near Everett. The later development of other high technology industries in Snohomish County brought population increases, and a shift from an economy based on logging and agriculture to one rooted in manufacturing, and an expanded service sector.

Manufacturing continues to be a major economic driver in Snohomish County. Nearly 64,000 jobs (24.5 percent of total Snohomish County nonfarm employment) in 2012 were in manufacturing industries. This is proportionally higher than any other county in Washington and above the national average. The manufacturing base, coupled with proximity to a major urban center, provides the foundation for a diverse local economy.

Other major industry sectors employing more than 15,000 include government (37,200), retail trade (31,700), educational and health services (28,400), leisure and hospitality (23,300), professional and business services (22,800) and construction (15,100).

Snohomish County began to feel the effects of the recent recession in mid-2008. The lowest employment levels were recorded in 2010, well after the recession had been declared over. Since 2010, most industries have begun to increase employment and the local unemployment rate has been dropping; however it has been a long process.


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Snohomish County Rank in state
Land area, 2013 (square miles) 2,087.27 13
Persons per square mile, 2013 350 7



Snohomish County is well-positioned coming out of the recession and recovery period. Although the county experienced relative losses greater than the state or the nation in 2009 and 2010, it has also experienced above average job creation by comparison from 2010 to the present. Almost all sectors have reported employment growth since reaching employment lows (2010 in most industries). This trend of growth has continued into the first several months of 2013. Since 2010, the unemployment rate has also been declining steadily. In June 2013, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Snohomish County was 5.7 percent.

The primary driver of Snohomish County’s early recovery was the manufacturing sector, specifically the aerospace products and parts manufacturing industry. Employment in aerospace peaked in late 2012 and has begun to decline. The Boeing Company announced a number of layoffs in early 2013, contributing to the loss of jobs. Despite layoffs, the airplane manufacturer has a robust backlog of orders and ambitious plans to increase production rates. Recent contract negotiations indicate that commercial airliner production is expected to remain in King and Snohomish Counties for years to come.

In recent months, manufacturing growth has slowed, changing the industrial signature of the local recovery. Consumption-driven sectors such as leisure and hospitality and retail sales, as well as the construction industry have led employment growth in Snohomish County in the first half of 2013.

Snohomish County, together with King County, has experienced better-than-average recovery from a particularly devastating recession. Both counties continue to feel lasting effects and challenges related to a shifting economic environment. The early recovery was rapid and led by aerospace manufacturing. Moving forward, expect to see a recovery that continues to move forward, albeit at a slower pace than was observed in 2011 and 2012.

Two sectors that are expected to lead the local recovery moving forward are construction and professional and business services.

Construction suffered greater proportional and absolute job losses than other major industry sectors in Snohomish County and statewide. This sector has taken longer than others to send out green shoots, but they seem to be taking hold. Comparing June 2013 with June 2012, construction added 800 jobs or 5.2% growth. Statewide, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council’s June 2013 forecast points to accelerated year-over-year job growth in construction over the next couple years.

Professional and business services is a diverse sector of businesses that provide operational support and a variety of services to other businesses. Employers in this sector are expected to contribute higher-than-average growth moving forward.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Snohomish County’s 2012 labor force averaged 386,720, with an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent. Within this estimate, 356,140 county residents were counted among the employed and 30,580 were counted among the unemployed.

During the recent period of recession and recovery, peak unemployment rates were reached in early 2010, when rates reached 11.4 percent. The average unemployment rate for 2010 was 10.6 percent. Since 2010, the unemployment rate has been on a consistent downward trend. In June 2013, the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent.

From 2005 to 2009, the Snohomish County labor force expanded by an average of 2.5 percent per year. From 2009 to 2012, the size of the labor force stalled. Fortunately, early 2013 has been showing signs of an expanding labor force.


Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Although the recession technically ended in June 2009, the employment situation did not begin to turn around until well into the recovery period. The lowest employment levels during this period were reached in 2010. Some industries that were particularly hard hit include construction and financial activities.

Snohomish County averaged 261,400 nonfarm jobs in 2012, up from an estimated 251,300 in 2011. Over the year, total employment increased an average 4.0 percent. Washington state as a whole experienced the addition of 42,300 jobs over the same time period; an increase of 1.5 percent.

  • Goods-producing industries supported an average of 79,100 jobs in 2012, up from 73,300 in 2011.
    • Snohomish County goods-producing industries generally fall within two industries: manufacturing and construction. Manufacturing dipped and recovered employment quickly (relative to other sectors). Construction suffered the greatest job losses in the county, but is expected to see a surge of hiring in the next couple years.
  • Service-providing industries supported an average of 182,300 jobs in 2012, up from 178,000 in 2011.
    • The service sector includes a broad range of industries, each responding differently to economic conditions. The greatest proportional service sector industry losses came from the financial activities sector and the greatest absolute losses came from retail. Educational and health services continued to grow over the course of the recession and recovery period.
  • Government employment averaged 37,200 jobs in 2012. This is down from an estimated 37,300 in 2011. Government payrolls declined even as private payrolls rose due declining tax revenues over the past couple years.

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 2011, Snohomish County’s labor market was slightly older than that of the state. Just over 25 percent of the workforce is between 45 and 54 years old.

In 2011, 52.2 percent of all jobs were held by men, while 47.8 percent were held by women.

  • Industries with male-dominant workforces included mining (84.1 percent), construction (81.5 percent), transportation and warehousing (74.3 percent) and manufacturing (74.1 percent).
  • Female dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (79.5 percent), educational services (73.7 percent) and finance and insurance (67.8 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, Snohomish County averaged 257,047 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of $13.5 billion.

The average annual wage in Snohomish County was $52,473 for all industries in 2012.

The median hourly wage was $24.19 in 2011, compared to the statewide median wage of $21.59 per hour.

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 in Snohomish County was $43,281, more than the state ($43,878) and the nation ($41,560). Statewide, Snohomish County ranked third in the state in terms of per capita income.

According to the American Community Survey, the median household income was $63,685 in 2011. The county’s median was higher than both the state ($56,835) and the nation ($50,502).

In 2010, 9.9 percent of the resident population in Snohomish County was living below the poverty level. Statewide and national poverty levels were higher (13.4 percent and 15.3 percent respectively).

In 2011, 11.0 percent of the resident population in Snohomish County was living below the poverty level. Statewide and national poverty levels were higher (13.9 percent and 15.9 percent respectively.

Childhood poverty levels tend to exceed all age group averages. In Snohomish County, 15.9 percent of all children under age 18 were reported as living below the poverty level in 2011.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

With 730,500 residents in 2013, Snohomish County has the third highest population in Washington. Only King and Pierce counties have higher resident populations.

Over the past couple decades, Snohomish County’s population growth rate has exceeded those of the state and the nation and this trend is projected to continue.

Migration trends tend to be linked closely with economic cycles. During the recent recession and recovery period, Snohomish County’s usual migration-related increase fell below the relatively constant rate of natural increase. In fact, between 2010 and 2011, Snohomish County saw net out-migration, not seen since the early 1970s.

The largest city in Snohomish County is Everett (104,200 residents in 2013). Other large cities include Marysville, Lynnwood and Edmonds. Cities experiencing the highest growth rates over the past decade are in the north and east parts of Snohomish County.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Snohomish County Washington state
Population 2013 730,500 6,882,400
Population 2003 639,942 6,126,892
Percent change, 2003 to 2013 14.2% 12.3%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

The age distribution of Snohomish County residents compared to the state as a whole reveals the suburban and industrial nature of the county. It suggests that people move to Snohomish County to work.

Snohomish County has a slightly larger proportion of young people under age 18 than the state and a much lower proportion of youth between ages 20 and 24. The population between age 30 and 54 exceeds that of the state and the population aged 60 and above is under-represented in Snohomish County. The population distribution by age is expected to smooth over time, as the baby boom generation ages.

The 2012 Census QuickFacts show fewer Black (2.9 percent) and Hispanic residents (9.3 percent) compared to the state and a higher representation of Asian residents (9.6 percent).


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Snohomish County Washington state
Population by age, 2010    
Under 5 years old 6.4% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 23.6% 23.0%
65 years and older 11.3% 13.2%
Females, 2012 49.9% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White 81.2% 81.6%
Black 2.9% 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.6% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 10.1% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 9.3% 11.7%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Compared to Washington state and the U.S. as a whole, Snohomish County residents age 25 and above are more likely in 2011to have graduated from high school (91.0 percent).

There were proportionally fewer Snohomish County residents with four-year college degrees than in the state. Over 27 percent of Snohomish County residents age 25 and up had completed bachelor degrees or higher, compared to 31.9 percent for the state. Snohomish County residents were more likely to have attended some colleges or to have earned their associate’s degree compared to the state and the nation.