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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.

Migrant and seasonal farm laborers have been essential to these commercial farming operations. These laborers have been ethnically diverse over the years and have included Indians, Japanese, Mexicans, Mexican Americans and more recently, Thais.

Manufacturing of food products, fruit warehousing, forestry and livestock are also important to the county’s economy. The wine industry continues to expand as well.


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 appears to be on a steady path to recovery from the depressed economic years of 2009 and 2010. Calendar years 2011 and 2012 were somewhat better for the local economy. A summary of nonfarm employment changes during the last four years follows.

  • 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 in 2009 as nonfarm employers shed 2,100 jobs (down 2.6 percent).
  • On an annual average basis, 2010 was another down year for labor markets, countywide and statewide. Yakima County lost 700 nonfarm jobs, a 0.9-percent decline. Washington lost 36,000 jobs, a 1.3-percent contraction.
  • During 2011, the economy began to improve. The county followed the state’s lead by netting 400 new jobs, a 0.5-percent upturn. Washington’s average nonfarm growth rate in 2011 was 1.3 percent as the economy generated 35,900 new jobs.
  • During 2012, total nonfarm employment was 76,700 jobs in Yakima County, a 300-job increase (up 0.4 percent) from the 76,400 provided during 2011. Washington state also had a better economic year in 2012 than in 2011. Total nonfarm employers added 48,300 jobs for a 1.7-percent upturn.

Projecting the number of jobs Yakima County will gain or lose in 2013 is a challenging task. It is estimated that Yakima County’s nonfarm labor market will net approximately 700 new jobs in 2013 (a 0.9 percent upturn) based on the year-over-year job growth rates experienced by the local job market during the last two quarters of 2012 and the first two quarters of 2013. This expansion in employment during 2013 will not match the employment peak of 78,800 jobs registered in 2008. Two or three more years of steady growth may be needed to equal pre-recession totals.


Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Between 2011 and 2012 in Yakima County:

  • Unemployment (not seasonally adjusted) declined from 10.2 to 9.8 percent, a four-tenths of a percentage point contraction. In comparison, Washington state’s unemployment rate decreased one full percentage point (from 9.2 percent in 2011 to 8.2 percent in 2012).
  • The average number of unemployed residents fell from 12,510 to 12,240 while the civilian labor force (CLF) grew by 2,340 (from 122,910 to 125,250 residents). Hence, the CLF expanded by 1.9 percent during 2012.
  • The July 2013 unemployment rate in Yakima County was 8.0 percent, a two-tenths percentage point decline from the 8.2 percent reading in July 2012. As of July 2013, the county’s not seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate registered year-over-year declines in thirteen out of the previous fourteen months (with the exception of January 2013), an indicator that the local labor market has been steadily moving in the right direction.

Comparing over-the-year quarterly nonfarm employment changes for Washington state and Yakima County for the previous twenty-two quarters (from the first quarter of 2008 through the second quarter of 2013), shows that:

  • During the first three quarters of 2008, Yakima County added nonfarm jobs faster than the state. Local nonfarm job growth rates surpassed Washington job growth rates.
  • Starting in the 4th quarter of 2008, through all of 2009 and into the first three quarters of 2010, the local economy did not lose jobs as rapidly as Washington state. In effect, Yakima County led the state. The sole exception to this pattern occurred in the third quarter of 2010 when total nonfarm employment in Yakima County decreased seven-tenths of a percentage point – slightly more rapid than the five-tenths of a point statewide job-loss rate (comparing the third quarters of 2009 and 2010).
  • An upside to the local economic picture developed when comparing nonfarm job growth in the county with the state during the last four completed quarters (third quarter 2012 through second quarter 2013). The state’s nonfarm economy added jobs at roughly a 2-percent pace during these four quarters, while the county’s economy grew at roughly a 1-percent pace. At the time of report preparation, Yakima County’s job market grew in each of the last four quarters about half as quickly as job growth statewide.
  • Job growth in Yakima County often lags Washington’s job growth in good economic times but in down years it can lead the state. This job growth-rate finding held true in 21 of the previous 22 quarters. One of the main reasons is the stabilizing effect of agriculture on the local economy. Roughly three percent of total covered employment in Washington state is in agriculture, but in Yakima County, approximately 26 percent of total covered employment is in this industry.

Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Across Yakima County in 2012, professional and business services, wholesale trade and education and health services had the largest increases in employment. The federal government, trade, transportation and utilities and nondurable goods manufacturers (primarily food processors) averaged fewer jobs in 2012 than in 2011. On an annual average basis, the county experienced a 300-job, 0.4 percent increase in nonfarm employment.

Employment also expanded during 2012 in the agricultural industry. According to preliminary 2012 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) data, agriculture, forestry and fishing employment (which is heavily dominated by agriculture in Yakima County) rose from 25,073 jobs in 2011 to 27,029 in 2012, a 1,956-job and 7.8-percent increase in employment. Employment changes in other industries are shown in the county data tables link in this report, at the covered employment tab.

The February 2013 Agricultural Employment and Wage report published by the Labor Market and Economic Analysis (LMEA) branch of Washington’s Employment Security Department stated that “Sales of Washington’s largest apple crop (from 2012) continue at a record pace and high prices. The crop is now estimated at 129.5-million boxes.” Washington’s 2012 bumper apple crop resulted in a huge demand for labor (i.e., pickers, thinners, pruners, packers, sorters, graders, etc.) and was the main reason for this 7.8-percent increase in agricultural employment in 2012.

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 2011, women held 49.6 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 (84.1 percent) and mining (82.4 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (79.8 percent), finance and insurance (72.7 percent) and professional, scientific and technical services (69.2 percent).

There were differences in 2011 between Yakima County and Washington state in the percentages of workers by age class:

  • 8.3 percent of workers in Yakima County in all industries were age 14 to 21 versus 6.6 percent statewide.
  • 22.6 percent of workers in Yakima County in all industries were older than 55 years of age versus 20.5 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 2012, there were 102,748 covered employment jobs in Yakima County, based on preliminary figures. The total payroll for 2012 was approximately $3.4 billion. The average annual wage was $33,108 or 63.7 percent of the state average of $51,964.

Annual average wages were highest in utilities ($77,892) and in management of companies and enterprises ($65,950).

Annual average wages were lowest in accommodation and food services ($15,429) and in other services, except public administration ($15,383).

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 2011 was $33,371 compared to the state at $43,878 and the nation at $41,560.

Median family income in 2011 was $46,985 in Yakima County, much lower than that of the state ($68,628), according to the American Community Survey (adjusted for inflation to 2011 constant dollars).

Yakima County’s poverty rate in 2011for children under 18 years of age was considerably higher (31.7percent) than the state’s (18.3 percent) and the nation’s (22.5 percent) poverty rates.



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

Yakima County’s population was estimated at 246,977 in 2012. 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 pace of growth. During the next decade (2010 to 2020) Yakima County should grow at an estimated pace of 1.0 percent, while the state should continue to grow yearly at a slightly faster, 1.1 percent rate.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Yakima County Washington state
Population 2012 246,977 6,897,012
Population 2010 243,231 6,724,540
Percent change, 2010 to 2012 1.5% 2.6%

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Compared with the state and nation, Yakima County’s 2012 population has substantially more children and youth. Roughly 33.0 percent of the county is 19 or younger compared to 25.7 percent in the state and 26.3 percent in the nation. The county’s population age 60 or older totals 17.3 percent compared to 19.1 percent in the state and 19.4 percent in the nation.

Yakima County has a higher percentage of Latino and Hispanic residents than the state and nation. In 2012, only 46.4 percent of its residents were white, not Hispanic or Latino, much lower than the statewide average (71.6 percent) and the national average (63.0 percent). Yakima County’s Hispanic or Latino population makes up 46.3 percent of its population, much higher than Washington state (11.7 percent) and the nation (16.9 percent). Yakima County’s American Indian/Native Alaskan population was 5.7 percent compared to 1.8 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, 2012
Under 5 years old 8.8% 6.4%
Under 18 years old 30.2% 23.0%
65 years and older 12.1% 13.2%
Females, 2010 49.9% 50.1%
Race/ethnicity, 2012
White, not Hispanic or Latino 46.4% 71.6%
Black 1.4% 3.9%
American Indian, Alaskan Native 5.7% 1.8%
Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander 1.6% 8.4%
Hispanic or Latino, any race 46.3% 11.7%

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Over the period 2007 to 2011, 17.7 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 4.2 percent and the national average of 6.0 percent.

Yakima County had a lower percentage of adults with bachelor’s degree or higher (11.2 percent) compared to the state at 20.2 percent and the nation at 17.9 percent over the same period.