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Yakima County Profile

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


Regional context

Yakima County is located in south central Washington state among seven neighboring counties. The geography varies from densely timbered, mountainous terrain in the west, rolling foothills, broad valleys and arid regions to the east and fertile valleys in its central and southern parts. Agriculture has been the staple of the economy over the last 100 years.

According to the Yakima County Economic Profile published by the Yakima County Development Association’s New Vision office, Yakima is the second largest county in Washington state at 2.75 million acres. Three entities own 63.4 percent of this total:

  • The Yakama Nation (1,074,174 acres)
  • The US Forest Service (503,726 acres)
  • The Yakima Training Center (165,787 acres)

Yakima County was separated from Kittitas County in 1883. Yakima County’s development was shaped largely by the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Yakima River. Most of the county’s population is concentrated along this river, largely because irrigation was critical to the success of the communities and the farmers who settled in this area.

The Washington Legislature passed the State Fair Act in 1893 and designated North Yakima in Yakima County as the site for an annual State Agricultural Fair. Some say it was a consolation prize for Yakima which lost its bid to Olympia to be named the state capital.

Local economy

Yakima settlers developed the land into a commercial agricultural enterprise in the 1880s. With irrigation and railroads, commercial fruit production flourished. Yakima established wine grape vineyards in 1869 and hops acreage in 1872, which remain major parts of its agricultural industry today. Forestry and livestock, dairies and the growing, storage and shipping/processing of deciduous tree fruits (cherry, pears, apples, etc.), are bedrocks of Yakima County’s agricultural industry.

Government (federal, state and local) is also a major employer in the local economy. In 2013, local government alone provided 12.4 percent of total covered employment (12,863 of 103,585 jobs in Yakima County) and 15.2 percent of total covered wages ($531.1 million of a countywide payroll of $3.5 billion).


Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Yakima County Rank in state
Land area, 2010 (square miles) 4,295.4 2
Persons per square mile, 2010 56.6 16



The Yakima County economy is on a slow path to recovery from the depressed economic years of 2009 and 2010. A comparison of nonfarm employment changes in the county and in Washington state during the last five completed years (2009-2013) and a look ahead to 2014 and 2015 follows.

  • In 2009 - The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) stated that the national recession occurred from December 2007 through June 2009. This effected Yakima County’s economy as employment fell from an average of 80,600 nonfarm jobs in 2008 to 79,100 in 2009, a contraction of 1.9 percent and a loss of 1,500 jobs. If 2009 was a dismal year for the local economy, it was abysmal the state’s economy. Employment across Washington plummeted from 2,993,900 nonfarm jobs in 2008 to 2,863,400 in 2009, 4.4 percent downturn and a loss of 130,500 nonfarm jobs.
  • In 2010 - On an average annual basis, 2010 was another down year for labor markets, countywide and statewide. Total nonfarm employment in Yakima County tailed off by 300 nonfarm jobs (to 78,800), a 0.4 percent decline. Washington dropped 26,300 jobs (to 2,837,100), a 0.9 percent contraction. The only good news to local and statewide nonfarm job markets in 2010 was that job loss rates were not as severe as in 2009.
  • In 2011 - The economy began to improve. The county followed the state’s lead by netting 300 new jobs (a 0.5 percent advance) as nonfarm employment rose to 79,100. Washington’s average nonfarm growth rate in 2011 was 1.3 percent as the economy generated 36,300 new jobs and employment grew to 2,873,400.
  • In 2012 – The state’s economic recovery continued, but the county’s economic recovery stalled. In 2012, total nonfarm employment averaged 78,800 jobs in Yakima County, a 300 job decrease (down 0.4 percent) from the 79,100 provided during 2011. Conversely, Washington state had a better economic year in 2012 than in 2011. Nonfarm employers added 48,400 jobs for a 1.7-percent upturn as employment averaged 2,921,800.
  • In 2013 - The local economy regained its footing and Washington’s economy continued to gather steam. Yakima County netted 800 new nonfarm jobs (a 1.0 percent advance) as employment rose to 79,600. Although this average annual growth rate of 1.0 percent was not robust, it was a step in the right direction for Yakima County considering the last year that local nonfarm employment experienced average annual growth of 1.0 percent or more was in 2006 (seven years prior) when the nonfarm market expanded at a 2.6 percent clip. Washington’s nonfarm growth rate in 2013 was 2.3 percent as the economy generated 68,600 new jobs and employment averaged 2,990,400.

Projecting the number of jobs Yakima County will gain or lose in 2014 is a challenging task. By incorporating the most recent Current Employment Statistics (CES) monthly nonfarm estimates for the county (through September 2014), it is observed that local nonfarm employment has posted year-over-year increases for the past 22 months (December 2012 through September 2014). However, year over year job growth rates have been modest, at roughly one percent, in Yakima County during the first nine months of 2014. If this growth pace continues through the last quarter of 2014, it is estimated that Yakima County’s nonfarm labor market will gain approximately 800 new jobs in 2014 (a 0.9 percent upturn) and annual average nonfarm employment will equal 80,400. This figure will still not match the pre-recession employment peak of 80,800 jobs registered in Yakima County in 2008 - but it will be close. Hence, if this slow but steady nonfarm job growth rate continues, 2015 will be the year when Yakima County’s economy regains all nonfarm jobs lost during the recent (December 2007 through June 2009) national economic recession.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Between 2012 and 2013 in Yakima County:

  • Unemployment (not seasonally adjusted) declined from 9.7 to 9.2 percent, a five-tenths percentage point contraction. Washington state’s unemployment rate decreased one and one-tenth percentage points (from 8.1 percent in 2012 to 7.0 percent in 2013).
  • The average number of unemployed residents fell from 12,230 in 2012 to 11,430 in 2013 while the civilian labor force (CLF) fell by 1,330 (from 125,690 to 124,360 residents) during this timeframe. Fortunately, the number of unemployed Yakima County residents decreased at a faster pace than the labor force contracted hence the not seasonally adjusted average annual unemployment rate decreased from 9.7 percent in 2012 to 9.2 percent in 2013.
  • The county’s labor force continued to contract during the first six months of 2014, before posting year over year expansions in July, August and September 2014. Between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014 the CLF advanced 0.6 percent, from 131,440 to 132,260 residents (meaning that 820 more residents were in the labor force) while the number of unemployed declined from 9,210 in September 2013 to 7,460 in September 2014 (meaning that 1,750 fewer residents were out of work). The result was that Yakima County’s not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell one and four-tenths percentage points between the Septembers of 2013 and 2014. This recent, three-month trend of labor force expansion is good news for the Yakima County economy as it could indicate that discouraged workers are testing the waters, finding it “safe” and rejoining the labor force.

Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Data in this Industry employment section are derived through the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) program, conducted by the Washington State Employment Security Department. QCEW data includes agricultural and nonagricultural employment and wages for firms, organizations and individuals whose employees are covered by the Washington State Employment Security Act. Also included are data for Federal Government agencies covered by Title 5, U.S.C. 85. Covered employment generally exceeds 85 percent of total employment in the state of Washington. Types of jobs not covered under the unemployment compensation system and hence not included in QCEW data: casual laborers not performing duties in the course of the employer’s trade or business; railroad personnel; newspaper delivery people; insurance or real estate agents paid on a commission basis only; non-covered employees working for parochial schools, religious, or non-profit organizations; employees of sheltered workshops; inmates working in penal institutions; non-covered corporate officers; etc.

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is an industry classification system that groups businesses/organizations into categories or sectors based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged. There are 19-private sectors and three government sectors (for a total of 22 sectors) at the 2-digit NAICS code level, within each county-level economy. One can observe county-level economic trends by analyzing absolute changes (in number of jobs) and relative changes (in percentage of jobs) in these sectors over given time period. If one analyzes employment changes in Yakima County over the past ten years (2004-2013) using Washington State Employment Security Department’s annual average Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) data the following employment trends emerge:

In Yakima County, total covered employment increased from 93,988 in 2004 to 103,585 in 2013, a 9,597 job and 10.2 percent expansion during this period. Of the 22 NAICS sectors mentioned earlier, there were five major sectors/industries that accounted for over two-thirds of all jobs countywide in 2004 and in 2013. In 2013; agriculture provided 26.1 percent, local government 12.4 percent, health services 12.4 percent, retail trade 9.8 percent and manufacturing 7.9 percent of total covered employment countywide. Hence, the Yakima County economy is not a tremendously diverse economy. Also, there was some repositioning of the ranking of these “top 5” sectors during this period (as described below). A summary of covered employment changes within the “top 5” sectors between 2004 and 2013 follows:

  • The number of jobs in agriculture, forestry and fishing (of which the vast majority are in agriculture) jumped 34.8 percent (from 20,057 jobs in 2004 to 27,044 in 2013). Hence agriculture retained its number 1 position in Yakima County, in terms of employment, over this ten-year period.
  • Local government registered a modest 5.4 percent upturn (from 12,209 jobs in 2004 to 12,863 in 2013) maintaining its position as the second largest industry, employment-wise, during this timeframe.
  • Health services posted a strong 17.3 percent expansion (from 10,914 jobs in 2004 to 12,807 in 2013) strengthening its ranking as the third largest industry countywide, in terms of jobs provided in 2004 and in 2014.
  • Retail trade employment increased 11.2 percent (from 9,145 jobs in 2004 to 10,172 in 2013) raising its ranking from the fifth-largest industry countywide in 2004 to the fourth-largest in 2013.
  • The number of manufacturing jobs in Yakima County decreased 10.4 percent (from 9,181 jobs in 2004 to 8,222 in 2013) and this sector/industry saw its relative importance slip from the “number 4” position in the “top 5” rankings in 2004, to the “number 5” position in 2013. What happened? Durable goods manufacturing employment took some hits in the decade from 2000-2010. Layoffs were particularly severe in transportation equipment manufacturing (i.e., closures at Chinook Trailwagons and Western RV) and in lumber and wood products (i.e. the Yakima Resources closure). Nondurable goods manufacturing was not immune to layoffs either such as the food processing jobs lost when DelMonte closed their asparagus cannery in Toppenish. Another negative economic event which depressed food processing employment in Yakima County was the July 1, 2008 fire which destroyed the Wild River Foods potato processing plant in Grandview. According to a July 2, 2008 article in the Yakima Herald Republic, this fire “destroyed a large chunk of Grandview’s economy . . . taking with it about 150 jobs.” But, there may be a light at the end of this tunnel. The most recent average annual QCEW employment data show that manufacturing in Yakima County (i.e. between 2012 and 2013) is up. Manufacturing employment across Yakima County rose from 7,813 jobs in 2012 to 8,222 in 2013, a 409-job and 5.2 percent upturn. Whether this demonstrates a renaissance in Yakima County’s manufacturing sector remains to be seen. But the following annual average employment uptrends between 2012 and 2013 in six local manufacturing subsectors is encouraging:
    • Food processing (NAICS 311) employment rose from 2,965 to 3,092, a 127 job and 4.3 percent increase.
    • Wood product manufacturing (NAICS 321) employment advanced from 435 to 473 a 38 job and 8.7 percent expansion.
    • Plastics and rubber product manufacturing (NAICS 326) escalated modestly from 1,306 jobs in 2004 to 1,336 in 2013, a 30 job and 2.3 percent upturn.
    • Fabricated metal products manufacturing (NAICS 332) jumped from 723 to 872, a 149 job and 20.6 percent climb in employment.
    • Machinery manufacturing (NAICS 333) progressed from 539 jobs in 2012 to 573 in 2013, a 34 job and 6.3 percent average annual employment gain.
    • Transportation equipment manufacturing (NAICS 336) moved upward from 569 jobs in 2012 to 614 in 2013, a 45 job and 7.9 percent uptrend.

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 are presented by place of work, not place of residence. Some highlights:

In 2012, women held 49.4 percent of the jobs in Yakima County. However, there were substantial differences in gender by industry.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (85.1 percent), utilities (83.8 percent) and mining (84.8 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (80.3 percent), finance and insurance (72.5 percent) and educational services (68.5 percent).

There were differences in 2012 between Yakima County and Washington state in the percentages of workers by age class:

  • 8.1 percent of workers in Yakima County in all industries were age 14 to 21 versus 6.5 percent statewide.
  • 23.0 percent of workers in Yakima County in all industries were older than 55 years of age versus 20.9 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)

In 2013, there were 103,585 covered employment jobs in Yakima County, based on revised figures. The total payroll for 2013 was approximately $3.5 billion. The average annual wage was $33,767 or 63.7 percent of the state average of $53,030.

In Yakima County, total covered wages increased from $2.5 billion in 2004 to $3.5 billion in 2013, a $1.0 billion and 40.4 percent expansion during this period. Of the 22 NAICS sectors mentioned earlier, there were five major sectors/industries that accounted for over two-thirds of all wages countywide in 2004 and in 2013. In 2013; agriculture provided 19.4 percent, health services 15.8 percent, local government 15.2 percent, manufacturing 7.9 percent and retail trade 7.8 percent and of total covered wages/payrolls countywide. Also, there was considerable repositioning of the ranking of these “Top 5” sectors during this period (as described below). A summary of covered wage changes within the “Top 5” sectors between 2004 and 2013 follows:

  • Wages, or payrolls, in agriculture, forestry and fishing (of which the vast majority are in agriculture) skyrocketed 96.1 percent (from $346.8 million in 2004 to $680.0 million in 2013). Agriculture moved upwards to the Number 1 position in Yakima County, in terms of total covered wages paid in 2013, from its Number 2 ranking in 2004.
  • Health services posted a 60.7 percent expansion in wages (from $344.1 million in 2004 to $552.9 million in 2013) changing its ranking to the second largest industry countywide, in terms of payroll provided in 2013. It was ranked a Number 3 in 2004.
  • Local government was the top paying industry in Yakima County in 2004, with a payroll of $408.4 million. Although wages paid by local government organizations grew to $531.1 in 2013, a 30.1 percent upturn during this ten-year period, its ranking slipped to Number 3. Why? In relative terms total covered wages in this industry simply did not rise as quickly as those in agriculture and health services.
  • Manufacturing wages increased 9.2 percent in aggregate (from $309.1 million in 2004 to $337.6 million in 2013) as it maintained its ranking as the fourth-largest wage generating industry countywide. Note that although total covered manufacturing wages/payroll grew in this ten-year period, the number manufacturing jobs decreased 10.4 percent (from 9,181 jobs in 2004 to 8,222 in 2013).
  • Retail trade wages increased 31.1 percent (from $207.6 million in 2004 to $272.3 million in 2013) as this sector retained its ranking as the fifth-largest payroll provider in Yakima County.

Annual average wages were highest in utilities ($78,719) and in management of companies and enterprises ($67,922).

Annual average wages were lowest in accommodation and food services ($15,381) and in other services, except public administration ($15,785).

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.

Per capita income in Yakima County in 2012 was $34,686 compared to the state at $46,045 and the nation at $43,735.

Median family income in 2012 was $50,549 in Yakima County, much lower than that of the state ($69,937), according to the American Community Survey (adjusted for inflation to 2011 constant dollars).

Yakima County’s poverty rate in 2012 for children less than 18 years of age was considerably higher (33.0percent) than the state’s (18.5 percent) and the nation’s (22.6 percent) poverty rates.



(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Office of Financial Management )

During the last decade (2000 to 2010) the county had an annual average population growth rate of about 0.8 percent, which was slower than Washington’s 1.2 percent growth pace.

Yakima County’s population was estimated at 247,044 in 2013, up 1.6 percent from the 243,231 county residents in 2010. Washington’s state’s population grew 3.7 percent, to 6,971,406 residents in 2013 from 6,724,540 in 2010. Hence the local population grew about half-as-fast as the state’s population during the past three years.

In aggregate during the next decade (2010 to 2020) Yakima County’s population is estimated to grow annually by 1.3 percent, while the state should continue to expand at a marginally faster yearly clip of 1.4 percent.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Yakima County Washington state
Population 2013 247,044 6,971,406
Population 2010 243,231 6,724,543
Percent change, 2010 to 2013 1.6% 3.7%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Compared with the state and nation, Yakima County’s 2013 population has substantially more children and youth. Roughly 30.0 percent of the county is under 18 years old compared to 22.9 percent in the state and 23.3 percent in the nation. The county’s population age 65 or older totals 12.5 percent compared to 13.6 percent in the state and 14.1 percent in the nation.

Yakima County has a higher percentage of Latino and Hispanic residents than the state and nation. In 2013, only 45.7 percent of its residents were white, not Hispanic or Latino, much lower than the statewide average (71.0 percent) and the national average (62.6 percent). Yakima County’s Hispanic or Latino population makes up 47.0 percent of its population, much higher than Washington state (11.9 percent) and the nation (17.1 percent). Yakima County’s American Indian/Native Alaskan population was 5.9 percent compared to 1.9 percent in the state, which reflects the presence of the Yakima Nation.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Yakima County Washington state
Population by age, 2013
Under 5 years old 8.5% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 30.0% 22.9%
65 years and older 12.5% 13.6%
Females, 2013 49.8% 50.0%
Race/ethnicity, 2013
White, not Hispanic or Latino 45.7% 71.0%
Black 1.5% 4.0%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 5.9% 1.9%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.6% 8.6%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 47.0% 11.9%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

According to the 2012 American Community Survey, over the period 2008 to 2012, 16.9 percent of Yakima County’s population 25 years and older had less than a 9th grade education. This figure is considerably higher than the statewide average of 4.0 percent and the national average of 5.8 percent.

Yakima County had a lower percentage of adults with bachelor’s degree or higher (15.9 percent) compared to the state at 31.6 percent and the nation at 28.5 percent over the same period.