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Wahkiakum County Profile

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


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.


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



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)

The county labor force was estimated at 1,268 in 2015, with an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. That was below the peak of 15.5 percent in 2010, but higher than the 6.6 percent recorded in 2006-07.

According to the Census Bureau’s On The Map program, over three-fourths of the county’s employed residents worked outside the county in 2014, mostly in Cowlitz, Clark, Pacific, Multnomah (OR) and Clatsop (OR) counties. Slightly more than half of the people who worked in Wahkiakum lived outside the county, with Cowlitz and Pacific being home to half of those cross-county commuters.

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


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 and then stabilized around 850 jobs from 1998 to 2008. There were more jobs in construction, logging, manufacturing, local government and non-retail services.

Employment fell to 700 nonfarm jobs in 2012, rose slightly to 730 jobs in 2014, and had no change in 2015. Logging employment, at 100 jobs in 2015, was 40 below its mid-2000’s level. Construction (60 jobs) was a bit higher, while manufacturing (50 jobs) and trade, transportation & utilities (60 jobs) employed about the same number as before the recession. Most of the job loss was in the “all other services” category, which dropped from 280 jobs in 2008 to 170 jobs in 2015. Part of the decline 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 2015, about 54 percent were held by males, and 46 percent by females—while the state was split closer to 51/49. Three industries in the county are dominated by male workers: agriculture/logging (88 percent male), construction (82 percent) and manufacturing (61 percent). Women were predominant in hospitality (72 percent) and education (69 percent). Wahkiakum’s workforce was much older than the state average, with 31 percent aged 55 and older, versus 23 percent statewide.


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 $20.32 in 2015, well below the median for the entire state but higher than the rest of 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 ($34,148 in 2015) declined steadily from 1999 to 2008 but has trended up since then, because most of the jobs lost in the recession were low-wage jobs.

Household income has been on the upswing of late. The county’s median household income for the 2010-14 time period was $44,500, almost $2,000 more than for the 2005-09 period.

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 2014, county per capita income was $35,534. That was 28 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 areas.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Wahkiakum’s population was estimated at 4,042 in 2015, with little change since 2008. Over the past decade, population has grown by 0.2 percent a year on average, about a quarter of the national rate and a sixth of the state rate.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum County Washington state
Population 2015 4,042 7,170,351
Population 2010 3,978 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2015 1.6% 6.6%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum’s population is much older than the state and nation. In 2016:

  • 18 percent of the county was below the age of 20, versus 26 percent statewide.
  • 15 percent was aged 20 to 39, versus 28 percent statewide.
  • 25 percent was aged 40 to 59, almost the same as the state’s 27 percent.
  • 41 percent was aged 60 or older, double the state average of 21 percent.

The county is also less diverse: in 2015, 93 percent of the population was white and non-Hispanic.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum County Washington state
Population by age, 2015    
Under 5 years old 3.6% 6.2%
Under 18 years old 17.3% 22.5%
65 years and older 31.4% 14.4%
Females, 2015 48.9% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2015
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino 93.3% 80.3%
Black 0.4% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.5% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.4% 9.1%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 4.2% 12.4%

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 than the state or nation. 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).