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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 37
Persons per square mile, 2010 15 30

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Outlook

Wahkiakum County had the largest percentage drop in employment of any county in the state during the 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 1,470 in 2012, with an unemployment rate of 12.2 percent. That was below the peak of 14.3 percent in 2009. The decline in the unemployment rate was due to workers dropping out of the labor market. Like many rural counties, unemployment is higher than average due to a more seasonal economy. In Wahkiakum, the rate has been even higher due to the high percentage job loss in the recession.

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. Logging employed 110, barely half as many as in 2000. The rest of the private sector was split between construction (50 jobs), manufacturing (40), trade, transportation & utilities (60) and all other services (190). Government employed 270, mostly in K-12 schools (90) and other local agencies like the county government (160). On a percentage basis, the county had the largest employment loss in the state, with no recovery in sight.

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 2012, about 55 percent were held by males and 45 percent by females—while the state was split closer to 50/50. Three industries in the county are dominated by male workers: agriculture/logging (90 percent male), construction (90 percent) and manufacturing (70 percent). Women are dominant in hospitality (76 percent) and education (67 percent). Wahkiakum’s workforce was much older than the state average. Almost a third was aged 55 and older, compared to a fifth 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 $19.00 in 2012. That was about $2.00 shy of the state average, but more than the average if King County were excluded. Wahkiakum matched the state average back in 1998, but wages have stagnated since then. Similarly, the average annual wage ($32,128 in 2012) has been close to $30,000 a year after adjustment for inflation since the late 1990s. However, the average annual wage was well below the state average. This was due to the greater proportion of very-high-wage jobs in other areas of the state.

Household income declined during the last decade. In 1999, the county’s median household income was only 6 percent below the national average. For the 2007-11 period, the county was 22 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 2012, county per capita income was $31,749. 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 areas.

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Population

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Wahkiakum’s population was estimated at 4,020 in 2013. Over the past decade, population has grown by less than half a percent a year on average, about half the national rate and a third of the state rate.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum County Washington state
Population 2012 3,993 6,897,012
Population 2010 3,978 6,724,540
Percent Change, 2010 to 2012 0.4 2.6%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum’s population is much older than the state and nation. In 2012:

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

The county is also less diverse: in 2012, 94 percent of the population was white and non-Hispanic.

Demographics

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Wahkiakum County Washington state
Population by age, 2012    
Under 5 years old 3.4% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 17.4% 23.0%
65 years and older 28.1% 13.2%
Females, 2012 49.9% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White 94.5% 81.6%
Black 0.3% 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.5% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 0.9% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.3% 11.7%

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. Less than 8 percent of adults in the county failed to finish high school (vs. 15 percent nationally), and 15 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher (vs. 28 percent nationally).

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