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Wahkiakum County Profile



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

Overview

Regional context

Wahkiakum is a small, heavily-forested, beautiful county located on the Columbia River roughly fifteen miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Logging is the main industry, and local government is a major source of jobs and wages. The county is an attractive place to retire, and more than a quarter of the county’s personal income comes from transfer payments such as Social Security and Medicare.

Local economy

Wahkiakum County has an ideal climate for growing Douglas fir trees on a short rotation. It is relatively isolated in terms of transportation infrastructure, linked by Highway 2 to the Longview area (eastward) and Ilwaco (westward). In addition, the county operates a ferry from Cathlamet to Westport, OR. As a result, the county has kept a largely rural feel, with much of its land devoted to forests.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 263.4 37
Persons per square mile, 2010 15.1 30

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Outlook

Wahkiakum County had the largest percentage drop in employment of any county in the state during the 2008-09 recession. Since hitting bottom, there has been very little change in job counts. That situation doesn’t look to change significantly any time soon.

Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The county labor force was estimated at 1,390 in 2014, with an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. That was below the peak of 14.4 percent in 2009, but higher than the 6.6 percent recorded in 2006-07. The decline in the unemployment rate was due to workers dropping out of the labor market—the estimated number of employed county residents has fallen steadily over the past five years and was at the lowest level in decades.

According to the Census Bureau’s On The Map program, almost three-fourths of the county’s labor force worked outside the county in 2011, mostly in Cowlitz, Clark, Pacific and Clatsop counties.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Wahkiakum County employment grew steadily during most of the 1990s, dropped a bit in the 2001 recession and then recovered to reach its all-time high of 870 jobs in 2007. There were more jobs in construction, logging, manufacturing, local government and non-retail services. Many of those gains disappeared in the recent recession, especially in non-retail services.

Employment fell to 720 nonfarm jobs in 2010, was unchanged in 2011 and slipped to 690 jobs in 2012. The county has added only 20 jobs since then. Logging employment, at 120 jobs in 2014, has recovered to its pre-recession level. Construction (70 jobs) was a bit higher, manufacturing (40 jobs) a bit lower and trade, transportation & utilities (60 jobs) was about the same. Most of the job loss was in other services, which dropped from 270 jobs in 2008 to 140 jobs in 2014. Part of the loss was due to the closure of the Columbia Care Center nursing home. Government employed 290, mostly in K-12 schools (80) and other local agencies like the county government (180).

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:

For jobs located in Wahkiakum County in 2013, about 57 percent were held by males and 43 percent by females—while the state was split closer to 50/50. Three industries in the county are dominated by male workers: agriculture/logging (89 percent male), construction (92 percent) and manufacturing (72 percent). Women were dominant in hospitality (80 percent) and education (67 percent). Wahkiakum’s workforce was much older than the state average, with 29 percent aged 55 and older, versus 21 percent statewide.

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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)

The median hourly wage for non-federal jobs in Wahkiakum County was $19.57 in 2013, well below the median for the entire state but identical to the state if King County was excluded. Wahkiakum matched the state median back in 1998, but wages have stagnated since then. The average annual wage ($33,690 in 2013) declined steadily from 1999 to 2008 but has risen since then, because most of the jobs lost in the recession were low-wage jobs.

Household income declined during the last decade. In 1999, the county’s median household income was only 6 percent below the national average. Over the 2009-13 period, the county was 21 percent below the nation.

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, county per capita income was $33,774. That was 27 percent below the state average and 23 percent below the national average. The gap between the county and the state and nation has been widening steadily for 40 years. Wahkiakum residents are much more dependent upon investment income and transfer payments like Social Security and Medicare than most other counties.

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Population

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Wahkiakum’s population was estimated at 4,042 in 2013, with little change since 2008. Over the past decade, population has grown by less than half a percent a year on average, about half the national rate and forty percent of the state rate.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum County Washington state
Population 2013 4,042 6,973,742
Population 2010 3,978 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 1.6% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum’s population is much older than the state and nation. In 2014:

  • 19 percent of the county was below the age of 19, versus 26 percent statewide.
  • 15 percent was aged 20 to 39, versus 27 percent statewide.
  • 26 percent was aged 40 to 59, almost the same as the state.
  • 40 percent was aged 60 or older, double the state average.

The county is also less diverse: in 2013, 91.0 percent of the population was white and non-Hispanic.

Demographics

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum County Washington state
Population by age, 2013    
Under 5 years old 3.6% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 17.8% 22.9%
65 years and older 29.8% 13.6%
Females, 2013 50.3% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 94.1% 81.2%
Black 0.3% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.5% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 0.8% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.7% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum residents are less likely to have a college degree, and also less likely to have dropped out of high school. Only 7 percent of adults in the county failed to finish high school (vs. 14 percent nationally) and 14 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher (vs. 29 percent nationally).

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