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Walla Walla County Profile

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


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, manufacturing, retail trade and government (educational) services. These five largest sectors make up over 72 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.


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



Walla Walla County has had stable employment growth for the past three years, with the largest increase at 1.8 percent in 2014. Walla Walla County employment was stable during the most recent recession, with a minimal decrease of 0.5 percent in 2009. However post-recession employment growth is moving along at a slower rate than seen in the state, with expansion in only a few industries and some decreases in other 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. For the next five years, industries that are expected to drive growth in the county are manufacturing, retail trade, warehousing, healthcare and education.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The Walla Walla County labor force was estimated at 28,268 in 2014, which is about 0.3 percent less than in 2013. Resident employment increased by 0.5 percent over the year, while resident unemployment decreased by 10.8 percent. The Walla Walla County unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in 2014, which was 0.8 percent less than in 2013.

During the past 10 years, the average annual unemployment rate peaked in 2010 at 8.0 percent and hit a low in 2007 of 4.8 percent. The unemployment rate fluctuates throughout the year, reflecting the seasonal employment trends.


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 27,004 in 2014, up by 1.8 percent or 484 jobs since 2013. The five-year average annual growth rate in Walla Walla County for covered employment was 0.6 percent. Average annual wages for covered employment in Walla Walla County were $39,215 in 2014, an increase of 2.8 percent from 2013 when the average annual wage was $38,135.

According to the BLS’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, there were 2,248 total establishments in Walla Walla County.

Goods-producing industries, which include natural resources, mining, construction and manufacturing, increased in employment from 2013 to 2014 by 1.1 percent, or by 88 jobs. Average employment in 2014 was 8,018 workers and annual wages totaled $309.4 million, which translated to a $38,586 average annual wage for goods-producing workers.

  • The manufacturing industry employment increased by 1.0 percent over the year. The average employment was 3,486 jobs in 2014, with average annual pay of $52,009 and a five-year annual average growth rate of 1.4 percent. Manufacturing represented 12.9 percent of total covered employment.
  • Construction accounted for 2.9 percent of the total average annual employment in the county with 770 jobs in 186 establishments. The average annual wage in construction was $38,506 in 2014. Over the year, construction increased by 1.0 percent, marking the third year of growth in a row.
  • Agriculture is one of the primary industries in the area, representing 13.9 percent of total employment. It is, however, highly seasonal and volatile from year to year.
    • Average annual employment in agriculture in 2014 was 3,762, with an increase of 1.2 percent from 2013. Nonetheless, agriculture has shown a 3.0 percent average annual growth rate over the past five years.
    • The average annual wage in agriculture was $26,165, mainly due to the seasonality of agricultural activities.

Service-providing industries are the major share (70.3 percent) of the Walla Walla County economy. They had an average of 18,986 jobs, which paid an average annual wage of $39,480 in 2014.

  • There were 60 establishments in the finance and insurance industry, which provided on average 664 jobs. The average annual wage for this industry was $50,989, which made it one of the top paying industries in the area.
  • The professional, scientific and technical services industry is one of the growing industries in Walla Walla County, with a five year average annual growth rate of 2.8 percent. However it represents only 1.8 percent of total employment with 492 jobs. It has the highest average annual wage at $54,905.
  • Retail trade is the fifth largest industry in Walla Walla County, representing 8.3 percent of total employment. In 2014, this industry had an average of 2,236 jobs in 167 establishments and paid an average annual wage of $26,046. Employment growth was recorded in food and beverage stores as well as general merchandise stores, which dominate the retail trade industry.
  • The administrative and waste services industry has increased by 2.7 percent a year in the past five years. This industry is one of the growing and expending industries for the area. From 2013 to 2014 this industry increased by 4.3 percent, going from 469 jobs in 81 establishments to 489 jobs in 82 establishments. Average annual pay in this industry is $24,620.
  • Healthcare and social assistance employment in the private sector had 4,491 jobs, which represented about 16.6 percent of total employment in 2014, making it the second largest industry in the area. Over the year this industry increased by 1.8 percent, which contributed to the five year average annual growth of 4.2 percent. It is the fastest growing industry in the county over the past five years. The average annual wage in this industry was $41,270, in 723 establishments.
  • Government made up 20.3 percent of total employment with 5,471 jobs in 2014, an increase of 2.9 percent over the year. It provided an average annual wage of $48,453.

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 2014, the largest share of employment in Walla Walla County was held by the 55 years and older workers at 24.8 percent. The age group of 45 to 54 had a 21.8 percent share of employment, followed by those 25 to 34 at 21.3 percent. The workforce in Walla Walla County is leaning toward an older worker dominance. From 2012 to 2014, the number of workers 55 years and older increased by 2.5 percent.

Walla Walla County employment in 2014 included 53.1 percent male workers and 46.9 percent females. The male workforce increased from 2012 by 0.8 percent, increasing its dominance in employment for the county. Industry differences are discussed below:

  • Male-dominated industries included transportation and warehousing (83.2 percent), construction (82.9 percent), utilities (82.2 percent), wholesale trade (73.6 percent) and manufacturing (71.8 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (77.3 percent), finance and insurance (70.9 percent), other services (63.0 percent), educational services (61.8 percent), accommodation and food services (55.9 percent) and professional, scientific and technical services (53.7 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 2014, there were 27,004 jobs in Walla Walla County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $1.06 billion.

The average annual wage was $39,215, well below the state’s average annual wage of $55,003. The median hourly wage in 2013 was $16.76, below the state’s median hourly wage of $22.09.

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, Walla Walla County’s per capita personal income was $38,663, less than the state ($47,717) and the nation ($44,765).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $46,597 in the period 2009-2013. This was less than the state ($59,478) 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 13.4 percent and the nation’s rate of 15.4 percent in 2009-2013, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

In 2014, Walla Walla County’s population was 59,844, showing 1.8 percent growth from 2010 to 2014, compared to the state’s growth rate of 5.0 percent.

The largest city in Walla Walla County is city of Walla Walla with a population of 32,260 in 2014.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Walla Walla County Washington state
Population 2014 59,844 7,061,530
Population 2010 58,781 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2014 1.8% 5.0%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Walla Walla County population demographics differed from the state’s in 2014.

  • Walla Walla County’s population under 18 years of age was 21.7 percent of the total compared to 22.7 percent for the state in 2014.
  • Residents under the age of 5 years old made up 5.8 percent of the total population compared to 6.3 percent for the state in 2014.
  • In 2014, Walla Walla County’s population 65 years and older made up 16.5 percent of the total compared to 14.1 percent for the state.

The county was 49.1 percent female compared to 50.0 percent for the state in 2014. The median age in the county was 36.9, where females tended to be older at 38.8 years compared to the male population at 35.3 years.

Walla Walla County differed from the state in racial and ethnic diversity in most categories in 2014. Hispanics and Latinos were 21.2 percent of the population compared with 12.2 percent in the state.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Walla Walla County Washington state
Population by age, 2014
Under 5 years old 5.8% 6.3%
Under 18 years old 21.7% 22.7%
65 years and older 16.5% 14.1%
Females, 2014 49.1% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2014
White 92.2% 80.7%
Black 2.1% 4.1%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.4% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 2.0% 8.9%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 21.2% 12.2%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

About 88.0 percent of Walla Walla County’s population 25 years and older were high school graduates over the period 2009 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 26.0 percent of Walla Walla County residents age 25 and older compared to 31.9 percent of state residents.