Jefferson County profile

Washington state map with Jefferson county highlightedby Jim Vleming, regional labor economist - updated September 2017

Overview | Geographic facts | Outlook | Labor force and unemployment | Industry employment | Wages and income | Population | Useful links | PDF Profile copy


Regional context

Jefferson County is located on the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington state. Jefferson County is nestled between the Admiralty Inlet and Clallam, Mason, Grays Harbor and Kitsap counties. It faces the Pacific Ocean to the west and Hood Canal to the east. Named for President Thomas Jefferson, it was created in 1852 from a portion of Lewis County. The county seat is Port Townsend.

Much of the county is publicly owned land. About 60 percent of the county comprises the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest and roughly 20 percent is under the jurisdiction of federal and state agencies. The Hoh Reservation and a small corner of the Quinault Reservation are also located in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County is a mid-sized county, ranking 18th in the state in land area. Its population density, as measured by persons per square mile, ranks 29th among the other counties.

Local economy

Jefferson County’s current economic base grew from a rich history of natural resources extraction in logging and fishing in the late 1880s. By the turn of the 20th century, sawmills, fish processing and shipbuilding were firmly established in the coastal areas of the county. The county also was known for smuggling spirits from Canada in and out of the county’s many hidden coves and forests during prohibition.

Port Townsend, the economic center of the county, has experienced periods of boom and bust over the century due to its dependency on these volatile industries. During 2011, Port Townsend finally started to recover from the Great Recession with visible signs of economic growth including new shops, new investments and rebounds in tourism. Annual taxable sales in the county have grown strongly since 2013.

The economy of Jefferson County is comprised of both an industrial and an agricultural base. Industrially, the county’s history, climate and terrain support healthy forest products and maritime sectors, including lumber, fish processing, ship repair and maintenance as well as ship and boatbuilding. The agricultural base encompasses tree farms for logging, aquaculture and a flourishing organic farming sector. Food production, stemming from this growing agricultural segment, includes artisan cheeses and breads. Tourism also provides revenue streams to the county. Economic activity is supported by a vibrant port and airport, ferry terminal and state highways.

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Geographic facts

Jefferson County Rank in state
 Land area, 2010 (square miles) 1,803.7  18 
 People per square mile, 2010 16.6  29 

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)


The outlook for Jefferson County for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018 is one of growth, but it is likely to be lukewarm as data show nonfarm employment up just under 1,000 from 2013. While the numbers are up and unemployment rates are down, growth in nonfarm jobs has been hard to come by and will continue to be a challenge entering 2018.

Labor force and unemployment

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

The preliminary August 2017 figure for the civilian labor force was 12,029, more than the August 2016 level of 11,617. This increase continues to indicate a reversal of years past where the labor force was shrinking. The bottom line is that more confidence in the local economy has led to a return to labor force participation.

The August 2017 figures show an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent compared to 6.9 percent in August 2016. The unemployment rate, while hovering around the 7 percent range seems to have found a home in the mid 5 percent range for the time being. While turning the corner into 2018 will bump this rate up, the starting point entering the year will be much lower.

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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Industry employment

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

In Jefferson County the nonfarm sector is averaging 8,600 jobs through the first 8 months of 2017. That is 230 jobs ahead of the pace set in 2016 and 430 paychecks above the 2015 county total.

  • The goods-producing sector was up 120 jobs year-over-year ending in August 2017, with construction showing a 100 job increase. Manufacturing showed an increase of 20 jobs.

  • The service-providing sector gained 100 jobs from August 2017 August 2016. Information and financial activities, professional services, leisure and hospitality and government all showed gains over this time period.

For historical industry employment data, contact an economist.

(Source: Employment Security Department)

Industry employment by age and gender

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:

The population of Jefferson County is older than that of the state, which is also reflected in the labor force figures. Over 31.1 percent of the workforce was age 55 or older in 2016.

  • Those aged 55 and older dominated the utilities, educational services and transportation services jobs, while younger workers (14 to 24) made up 27.7 percent of accommodation and food services positions.

When looking at all industries, men held 47.6 percent of the jobs while women made up 52.4 of all workers in 2016. In spite of this imbalance, males in the county tended to be employed in higher wage jobs in what are generally considered traditionally male fields such as manufacturing and construction. There are wide differences in the composition of industry sector by gender in Jefferson County.

  • Male-dominated industries included construction (79.6 percent), manufacturing (72.4 percent), agriculture, and forestry and fishing and hunting (71.3 percent).

  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (80.5 percent), healthcare and social assistance (80.2 percent) and educational services (71.1 percent).

(Source: The Local Employment Dynamics)

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Wages and income

In 2016, Jefferson County had 8,372 jobs covered by unemployment insurance system, with a payroll of $308.3 million.

The 2016 average annual wage for Jefferson County was $36,831 well below the state’s average annual wage of $59,073. The average wage was also below the state average minus King County, which was $46,771.

The median hourly wage in 2016 was $20.16, less than that of the state’s median hourly wage at $23.91 and for the state less King County at $20.68.

Median household income, according to U.S. Census, was $49,279, well below that of the state’s $61,062. The U.S. figure was $53,889.

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 personal income in Jefferson County in 2015 was $47,222 compared to $51,898 for the state and $48,112 for the nation. Jefferson County ranked 7th in the state in 2015 in per capita income. It ranked sixth in 2014.

According to the U.S. Census, 11.9 percent of those in the county were living below the poverty level compared to 11.3 percent of the state population and 12.7 percent of the U.S. population in the period 2011 through 2015. The state and national rates are not directly comparable to the county rate because they each use different data sources.

(Source: Employment Security Department; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey)

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The population of Jefferson County was 31,139 in 2016. It grew from 29,872 in 2010.

Jefferson County’s largest city, Port Townsend, had a population of 9,527 in 2016, up from 9,113 in 2010, an increase of 414 people.

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Population facts

Jefferson County Washington state
 Population 2016 31,139  7,288,000 
 Population 2010 29,872  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2016 4.2%  8.4% 

Age, gender and ethnicity

Jefferson County’s population was older than the population of the state in 2016.

  • The county’s residents in the 65 and older category made up 34.7 percent of its population compared to 14.8 percent of the state’s population.

  • There were proportionately fewer young residents in Jefferson County compared to the state.

There were 15,819 females in the county’s population at compared to 15,320 males in 2016.

The population also includes a much smaller percentage of people of color than the state averages with the exception of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who accounted for 2.2 percent of the population in the county, higher than the state’s percentage of 1.9 percent.

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Jefferson County Washington state
 Population by age, 2016
Under 5 years old 3.1%  6.2% 
Under 18 years old 12.6%  22.4% 
65 years and older 34.7%  14.8% 
 Females, 2016 50.8%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2016
White 91.5%  80.0% 
Black 1.0%  4.1% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.2%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific  Islander 2.1%  9.4% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.9%  12.4% 

Educational attainment

Most of Jefferson County residents age 25 and older (94.1 percent) were high school graduates, which compares favorably with 90.4 percent of Washington state’s residents and 86.7 percent of U.S. residents in the period 2011-2015.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 37.0 percent of Jefferson County residents age 25 and older compared to 32.9 percent of state residents and 29.8 percent of U.S. residents over the same period.

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)


Useful links

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