Asotin County profile

Washington state map with Asotin county highlightedby Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist - updated October, 2017

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


Regional context

Asotin County, established in 1883, is in the farthest southeastern corner of Washington, bounded on the east by Idaho and on the south by Oregon. Garfield County makes up its western border and part of its northern border as well. The balance of its northern border is shared with Whitman County.

Before white exploration and settlement, the semi-nomadic Nez Perce inhabited what is now Asotin County. Tribes on both sides of the Nez Perce Trail used it for commerce, which was of strategic importance to the development of the region. Modern-day highways largely parallel the old trail.

The establishment of the territory and the end of the Indian Wars resulted in an influx of white settlers into the county. Asotin, a former Nez Perce village, attracted settlers who were producing cattle, fruit and vegetables for mining camps in Idaho by 1868. Most economic development in the county was linked to mining activity in Idaho.

By the 1950s, agriculture dominated Asotin County’s economy with grain crops, such as wheat and barley, as well as peas, berries, tree fruits and nuts, which were clustered near the river. The food processing industry grew up around these crops and the meat and dairy farms.

The dense stands of fir in the Blue Mountains made lumber and wood products a growth industry. Hunting and other outdoor recreation have been growth industries, too. The completion of the Lower Granite Dam in 1975 shut down orchard and beef-processing activities along the river as land was submerged, but it created one of the longest inland water routes in the nation. Agriculture remained important, but now shared top billing with port activity at Clarkston-Lewiston and the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operated the dam. Population growth followed the port activity at both Clarkston and Lewiston, fueling trade and service sectors catering to their needs.

Source: Historic Glimpses of Asotin County by E.V. Kuykendall, Bob Weatherley of the Asotin County American

Local economy

Based on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), in 2016 overall employment grew by 2.7 percent to 5,992, which was led by agriculture (12.9 percent), construction (9.6 percent), real estate and rental and leasing (6.5 percent) health care and social assistance (5.8 percent), wholesale trade (3.2 percent), and retail trade (2.7 percent). All these industries are moving forward with expansion and development due to population demand for the services.

Population related services have been growing for accommodate a demand. However, services that depend on many other factors are struggling, which includes; professional and technical services (-5.6 percent), transportation and warehousing (-4.3 percent), information services (-3.1 percent), and leisure and hospitality (-1.1 and -1.6 percent respectfully).

Agricultural employment also continues to play an oversized role, not in terms of total employment, but in terms of economic impact. High prices for wheat positively impacts wholesale sales employment, retail sales and the overall quantity of money flowing through the economy.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Asotin County Rank in state
 Land area, 2010 (square miles) 636.21  34 
 Persons per square mile, 2010 34.0  20 

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Export-related manufacturing continued to be a source of very positive growth for the economy and overall employment in this sector has recovered to 2009 employment levels prior to the recession slump. As overall economic conditions improve around the world, exports will become an area of greater strength and diversity. Some local manufacturers have made efforts to open up new Asian and European export markets for their products, especially durable goods.

Construction jobs along with financial activities are also improving on their way to recovery. More and more activities are occurring in construction, reflecting more consumer confidence in real estate investments.

Agriculture employment is expected to continue its very slow job growth as wheat production becomes increasingly mechanized. For the region, wheat crop production was at levels considered very profitable, historically. With increased demand, decreased worldwide production stemming from droughts and higher than average per bushel prices, the local value of wheat harvest was above average. Commodities across most markets have continued to benefit from changing levels of global trade, demand and monetary valuation. It is likely these trends could stop as quickly as they started.

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Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The total county labor force was estimated at 9,993 in 2016, about 3.3 percent more than in 2015. The labor force in the county has been declining at the rate of 1.5 percent a year since its peak of 10,333 in 2010, however 2016 marks first year of labor force growth and expansion in the past three years. Unemployment was lower in 2015 at 4.8 percent, with an increase to 5.1 percent in 2016. The labor force participation rate in 2015 was 57.9 percent, down from 61.7 percent in 2010.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

In 2016, QCEW data show Asotin County averaged 5,992 covered jobs, up by 2.7 percent from 5,835 in 2015. Of these jobs, the service-providing sector dominates with 83.9 percent of total covered employment while goods-producing industries make up only 16.1 percent.

Asotin County goods-producing industry has grown over the year with an increase of 48 jobs or 5.3 percent. It has been main leader of job growth over the last 20 years. Construction is rebounding from the recession drop in employment and manufacturing is continuing it stability and growth.

  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting continues to be a small component of total 2016 employment at 1.6 percent; however, it did increase over the year by 12.9 percent. Total covered payrolls were at $2.0 million. Overall average agricultural wages in 2016 were $21,250 for the workers.
  • Construction employment continued to grow for the fourth year in a row with 38 additional jobs in 2016. Total count was 434 covered jobs, which is highest in the past eight years. Construction is the sixth largest industry in the county with 7.2 percent of employment and an average $49,726 annual wage.
  • Total employment in manufacturing decreased by 0.2 percent in 2016 from 2015. At the moment manufacturing makes up only 7.2 percent of total employment or 432 jobs. Manufacturing pays a $40,398 average annual wage.
  • Recent reports indicate business sales and productivity of workers are both up. Major growth occurred in transportation equipment manufacturing. This specific industry is primarily jet boat manufacturing which has national and international appeal. Boat manufacturing in the area is gaining momentum, expanding with additional exports and trade growth at the international level.
  • Retail trade is the third largest industry in the county with an 18.0 percent share of total employment. Retail employment increased in 2009 as the result of a new Wal-Mart store opening in Clarkston, Washington. The store was previously in Lewiston, Idaho. Also, the Clarkston area hosts a Costco shopping warehouse, which brings regional appeal to shoppers in Southeastern Washington and Central Idaho. However, average wages in the retail sector tend to be lower than those of other industries at $31,780 annually. Total employment in the retail trade was at 1,078 in 2016 with an increase over the year of 2.7 percent.
  • Health care and social assistance in Asotin County is the largest industry making up 19.8 percent of total employment in 2016. It has been and continues to be a key source of jobs for the county. Total number of jobs in the health care and social assistance was 1,185 with an increase of 5.8 percent from the 2015 level. The health care and social assistance industry paid on average $39,436 annually in 2016.
  • Accommodation and food services industry has 10.5 percent of total employment with total of 629 total jobs in 2016. Total covered payrolls in Asotin County for this industry was at $10.6 million, which is translated into $16,763 average annual wage. Nonetheless, this is the lowest paying industry which remains an important support industry for the business community, visitors and area residents.
  • Professional and technical services employment had 214 jobs in 2015, with an increase of 0.9 percent. Total covered payrolls were at $6.5 million, which is reflected in the average annual wage of $30,341.
  • Government administration makes up 19.6 percent of total employment in the area, with total of 1,172 jobs in 2016. Majority of government employment is in the local and state education and health services. Government is the second largest industry segment in the county with total covered payroll of $44.9 million, which translates in to average annual wage $38,333 in 2016. 

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 2016 men held 46.1 percent of the jobs in Asotin County and women held 53.9 percent.

  • Workers over the age of 55 years of age held 24.0 percent of all employment, close to the state number of 22.2 percent.
  • Workers between the ages of 25 and 34 held 21.0 percent of all employment, which followed by worker 45 to 54 years of age with 19.9 percent of all employment.
  • Male-dominated industries included construction (84.7 percent), manufacturing (83.5 percent), wholesale trade (78.8 percent), transportation and warehousing (75.0 percent), and agriculture (72.7 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included health care and social assistance (81.4 percent), professional, scientific and technical services (76.7 percent), finance and insurance (73.3 percent), education services (70.9 percent), and real estate and rental and leasing industry (63.0 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 2016, employers in Asotin County paid $214.0 million in wages, which increased by 6.3 percent from $201.4 million in 2015.
  • The average annual wage for jobs in the county increased by 3.5 percent to $35,710 in 2016 from $34,508 in 2015.
  • The 2016 median hourly wage for Asotin County was $17.66, below the state figure of $23.91 and the state figure minus King County of $20.68.
  • Median household income was $44,394 in 2015 dollars. This is much lower than the state at $61,062.
  • Workers living in Asotin County earn a large portion of their income outside of the county. In 2015, workers earned over 54.8 percent of their total wages working outside of the county.

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 Asotin County was $41,162 in 2015, which is 85.8 percent of the U.S. average ($48,112) and 79.6 percent of the state average ($51,898).
  • Investment income was 21.0 percent of per capita total income in 2015.
  • Government transfer payments, as a proportion of total income, have risen steadily from 12 percent in 1969 to 27 percent in 2015.
  • The poverty rate for Asotin County in 2015 was estimated at 15.7 percent, above the states poverty rate of 11.3 percent. 

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(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

The U.S. Census estimates the population of Asotin County in 2016 was 22,306. Since 2010, the county’s population has increased 3.2 percent, slower than the 8.4 percent for the state.

  • Asotin County had 34.0 people per square mile in 2010. The state had 101.2 people per square mile.
  • The population has experienced more net in-migration than natural increases.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Asotin County Washington state
 Population 2016 22,306  7,288,000 
 Population 2010 21,623  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2016 3.2%  8.4% 

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • In 2016, Asotin County had 20.8 percent of its population under age 18, compared to 22.4 percent statewide.
  • The population was 21.7 percent 65 years and over, compared with 14.8 percent statewide.
  • Females were were 51.2 percent of the population, compared to 50.0 percent statewide.
  • Asotin County was less diverse than the state in terms of race and in 2016, 94.1 percent of residents were white, compared with 80.0 percent statewide.
  • Hispanic or Latino residents represented 3.8 percent of population, compared to 12.4 percent statewide


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Asotin County Washington state
 Population by age, 2016
Under 5 years old 5.6%  6.2% 
Under 18 years old 20.8%  22.4% 
65 years and older 21.7%  14.8% 
 Females, 2016 51.2%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2016
White 94.1%  80.0% 
Black 0.6%  4.1% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.7%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 1.1%  9.4% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.8%  12.4% 

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

  • In the period 2011–2015, Asotin County residents over the age of 25 had similar high school graduation rates, 89.4 percent, compared to their statewide counterparts at 90.4 percent.
  • An estimated 18.2 percent of those over 25 had a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, compared to 32.9 percent statewide.

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Useful links

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