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Walla Walla County Profile


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

Overview

Regional content

Walla Walla County was formed in 1854 and was named after the Walla Walla tribe of Native Americans. Walla Walla covers 1,271 square miles of land, ranking 26th in size among Washington’s 39 counties. Located in southeastern Washington, it is bordered by Columbia to the east, Franklin to the northwest, Benton on the west and Umatilla County, Oregon on the south. Walla Walla County has a population density of 46.3 persons per square mile and is home to one of the oldest communities in the state.

Walla Walla’s agricultural industry is the backbone of its economic vitality. Wheat, onions, potatoes and wine grapes are some of crops that are grown in Walla Walla County. In past few years Walla Walla has become one of the main attractions for wine and arts tourism as the area gets national and world recognition for its quality wine.

Local economy

The Cayuse, Walla Walla and Umatilla tribes were well established at the eastern end of the Columbia River basin. With abilities to travel the surrounding area for trading, some of the tribes acquire horses, which they later used for breeding or for sale or trade. Later trading became one of the primary economic activities as fur and goods trading companies moved into the area with the pioneers. As pioneers started settling in the area agricultural and ranching activities prospered as demand for produce and meats grew with a new influx of gold rush pioneers.

Walla Walla County went through many changes in late 1800’s, however it has cultivated a flourishing community which is home to first and oldest college, bank and newspaper in the state. Walla Walla County was added to the railroad grid with 30-mile line connection in 1875, as the need for local agricultural products increased with creation of new settlements in the west. Also in 1887, Walla Walla became home to one of the first territorial prisons in the state, where government became a major employing industry in the area.

Considering its size and isolation, the Walla Walla economy has a diverse industrial makeup. The largest sectors are: agriculture, health care, higher education, manufacturing and government services. These five largest sectors make up over 60 percent of total employment. Walla Walla County has also become a tourist attraction and destination as people are attracted to the mild climate, low cost of living and high quality of life. This in-migration into the county is reflected in the increased housing starts.

With over 100 wineries located in the valley, Walla Walla County has become a wine destination and important viticulture area. Tourism will continue to drive growth in food, accommodations and wine sales.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Walla Walla County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 2,270.1 26
Persons per square mile, 2010 46.3 17

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Outlook

From 2003 through 2013, Walla Walla County has had a slow growth in nonfarm payrolls with annual average rate of 0.5 percent. Walla Walla County employment was stable during recession, however post-recession employment growth is slow with expansion in only a few industries.

Industries that have maintained stability in Walla Walla County for the past five years include: agriculture and agriculture support activities, transportation and warehousing, healthcare and social assistance, professional and technical services, arts and entertainment and government.

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Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In 2013, the county labor force was estimated at 29,190, about 2.9 percent less than in 2012. The Walla Walla County unemployment rate was 7.0 percent in 2013 which was 0.3 percent less than in 2012.

During the past 10 years, the average annual unemployment rate peaked in 2010 and 2011 at 7.6 percent and hit a low in 2007 at 4.8 percent. The unemployment rate fluctuates throughout the year, reflecting the seasonal employment, with lows in September or October each year and peaks in January or February.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Total covered employment in Walla Walla County was 26,520 in 2013, up by 0.2 percent or 52 jobs since 2012. The five-year average annual growth rate in Walla Walla County for covered employment was 0.1 percent. Average annual wages for covered employment in Walla Walla County were $38,135 in 2013, an increase of 0.2 percent from 2012 when the average annual wage was $37,534.

In 2013, according to the BLS’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, there were 2,404 total establishments in Walla Walla County, an increase of 4.2 percent, or 96 new establishments, over the year.

Goods-producing industries, which include natural resources, mining, construction and manufacturing, increased in employment from 2012 to 2013 by 0.2 percent, or by 52 jobs. Average employment in 2013 was 7,930 workers and annual wages totaled $291.2 million, which translated to a $36,726 average annual wage for goods-producing workers.

  • Manufacturing industry employment increased by 0.5 percent over the year. The average employment was 3,452 jobs in 2013, with average annual pay of $51,121 and a five-year annual average growth rate of 2.0 percent. Manufacturing represented 13.0 percent of total covered employment.
  • Construction accounted for 2.9 percent of the total average annual employment in the county with 762 jobs in 176 establishments. The average annual wage in construction was $36,057 in 2013. Over the year, construction increased by 1.2 percent, marking the second year of growth in a row.
  • Agriculture is one of the primary industries in the area, representing 14.0 percent of total employment. It is, however, highly seasonal and volatile from year to year.
    • Average annual employment in agriculture in 2013 was 3,716, down by 0.6 percent from 2012. Nonetheless, agriculture has shown a 2.4 percent average annual growth rate over the past five years.
    • The average annual wage in agriculture was $23,491, mainly due to the seasonality of agricultural activities.
    • Crop production represents 93.1 percent of total agriculture, which is largely in non-citrus fruit farming, including apple orchards, onions and potatoes, grape vineyards and other produce.
    • Support activities had 0.7 percent of employment, which includes post-harvest crop activity.

Service-providing industries are the major share (70.0 percent) of the Walla Walla County economy. There was an average of 18,590 jobs in 1,869 establishments, which paid an average annual wage of $38,736 in 2013.

  • There were 58 establishments in the finance and insurance industry, which provided on average 703 jobs. The average annual wage for this industry was $49,940, which made it one of the top paying industries in the area.
  • The professional, scientific and technical services industry is the fastest growing industry in Walla Walla County with five year average annual growth rate of 3.2 percent. However it represents only 1.9 percent of total employment.
  • Retail trade is the fifth largest employing industry in Walla Walla County, representing 8.5 percent of total employment. In 2013, this industry had an average of 2,244 jobs in 165 establishments and paid an average annual wage of $25,632.
  • The administrative and waste services industry has increased by 1.8 percent a year in the past five years. This industry is one of the growing and expending industries for the area. From 2012 to 2013 this industry increased by 16.0 percent, going from 408 jobs in 78 establishments to 469 jobs in 81 establishments. This industry paid on average $24,218 a year.
  • Healthcare and social assistance employment in the private sector had 3,804 jobs, which represented about 14.3 percent of total employment in 2013, with an increase of 0.9 percent over 2012. It is the largest private employing industry in the county. The average annual wage in this industry was $44,373, in 137 establishments.
  • Government made up 20.0 percent of total employment with 5,315 jobs in 2013, with an average annual wage of $51,121.

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 2012, the largest share of employment in Walla Walla County was held by 55 year and older workers at 22.3 percent. The age group of 25 to 34 year-olds had a 21.8 percent share of employment, followed by those 45 to 54 years olds at 21.4 percent. The workforce in Walla Walla County is leaning toward older worker dominance.

Walla Walla County employment in 2012 included 52.3 percent male workers and 47.7 percent females. Industry differences are discussed below:

  • Male-dominated industries included utilities (84.7 percent), transportation and warehousing (82.7 percent), construction (81.5 percent), wholesale trade (76.3 percent) and manufacturing (72.1 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (76.2 percent), finance and insurance (70.6 percent), other services (73.1 percent), educational services (57.6 percent), accommodation and food services (55.9 percent) and professional, scientific and technical services (54.5 percent).
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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)

In 2013, there were 26,520 jobs in Walla Walla County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $1.01 billion.

The average annual wage was $38,135, well below the state’s average annual wage of $53,029. The median hourly wage in 2012 was $16.52, below the state’s median hourly wage of $21.64.

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, Walla Walla County’s per capita personal income was $37,395, less than the state ($46,045) and the nation ($43,735).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $47,166 in the period 2008-2012. This was less than the state ($59,374) and the nation ($53,046) during the same period.

Walla Walla County’s poverty rate of 17.8 percent was above Washington state’s rate of 12.9 percent and the nation’s rate of 14.9 percent in 2008-2012, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts.

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Population

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

In 2013, Walla Walla County’s population was 59,530, showing a 1.3 percent growth from 2010 to 2013 compared to the state’s growth rate of 3.7 percent.

The largest city in Walla Walla County is city of Walla Walla with a population of 31,825 in 2013.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Walla Walla County Washington state
Population 2013 59,530 6,971,406
Population 2010 58,781 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 1.3% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Walla Walla County population demographics differed from the state’s in 2013.

  • Walla Walla County’s population under 18 years of age was 21.9 percent of the total, compared to 22.9 percent in the state in 2013.
  • Residents under the age of 5 years old made up 5.8 percent of the total population compared to 6.4 percent in the state in 2013.
  • In 2013, Walla Walla County’s population 65 years and older made up 16.1 percent of the total compared to 13.6 percent in the state.

The county was 49.1 percent female compared to 50.0 percent for the state in 2013.

Walla Walla County differed from the state in racial and ethnic diversity in most categories in 2013. Hispanics and Latinos were 20.9 percent of the population compared with 11.9 percent in the state.

Demographics

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Walla County Washington state
Population by age, 2013
Under 5 years old 5.8% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 21.9% 22.9%
65 years and older 16.1% 13.6%
Females, 2013 49.1% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White 92.4% 81.2%
Black 2.0% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.4% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.8% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 20.9% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

About 87.6 percent of Walla Walla County’s population 25 years and older were high school graduates over the period 2008 to 2013. This graduation rate compares to 90.0 percent for the state.

Over the same period, those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 25.7 percent of Walla Walla County residents age 25 and older compared to 31.6 percent of state residents.

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