Ferry County profile

Washington state map with Ferry county highlightedby Doug Tweedy, 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

Ferry County, named for Governor Ferry, was carved out of Stevens County in 1899. The County is bordered to its north by British Columbia and Lincoln County to its south. Okanogan County lies to the west and Stevens County to the east. Ferry County is sparsely populated. This rural economy is defined by limited transportation routes and its dependence on resource extraction. The Colville Confederated Tribe owns the southern portion of the county and the northern portion is largely part of the Colville National Forest. Less than 18 percent of the land in Ferry County is privately owned.

Local economy

Ferry County was settled after the discovery of gold in the 1850s. As this gold rush came to an end around 1900, lumber began to play a major role in Ferry County’s early history. In 1907, President Roosevelt created a system of national forests. The newly recognized Colville National Forest made up the northern half of Ferry County. Ferry County remained remote and inaccessible until roads and communication systems were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Lake Roosevelt was also developed in the 1930s, which spurred employment, electricity, irrigation.

Ferry County, and particularly the town of Republic, have relied on mining for decades. The Republic mines were the major producers of gold in the state for many years in the 20th century. Since 2009, employment growth has been slightly negative.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Republic, the county seat, is the largest city in Ferry County. Ferry County ranks ninth in the state in terms of land area and 38th in the state for population density.

Ferry County Rank in state
 Land area, 2010 (square miles) 2,203.16 
 Persons per square mile, 2010 3.4  38 

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The economy of Ferry County has remained static with little change over time. The lack of economic growth is reflected in slow population growth, an older than average population and negative real employment growth. Ferry County continues to be plagued by limited transportation and little private land. These issues limit growth of resource extraction as well as overall economic activity. The largest employer in Ferry County, a gold mine near Republic, has announced that they will close in 2017. This closure will have a severe impact on Ferry County employment and create significant increases in unemployment. The indirect impact of the closure, due to the lost high-wage jobs, will impact local businesses and schools. As the nation and state continue to recover, Ferry County is likely to experience decreases in employment and income.

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Labor force and unemployment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

The civilian labor force for the first six months of 2017 (2,573) was up slightly compared to the same period in of 2016 (2,486).

The preliminary county unemployment rate for the first six months of 2017 was 11.4 percent. In 2016 the rate was 11.7 percent for the same period. The unemployment rate peaked in 2010 at 17.7 percent.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Ferry County has just over 1,600 nonfarm jobs located in the county. A large number of the employed residents work in jobs or for firms located outside the county.

Total nonfarm jobs in the first six months of 2017 were unchanged from the same period in 2016.

  • Goods-producing employment is averaging 317 jobs in 2017, a slight increase from the 2016 average of 302. All of the increase was in construction activity.
  • Service-providing employment is averaging 1,370 in 2017. According to the most recent estimates, retail trade and transportation are the only sectors trending up

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:

The largest jobholder age group in Ferry County in 2016 was the 55 and older group at 29.6 percent. This percentage was closely followed by jobholders aged 45 to 54, with 20.5 percent of the workforce.

In 2016, men held 53.6 percent of the jobs in Ferry County. There were substantial differences in gender dominance by industry.

  • Male-dominated industries iincluded construction (88.4 percent) and manufacturing (83.4 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (90.0 percent), healthcare and social assistance (67.7 percent) and accommodations and food service (68.8 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, there were 1,760 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $67.5 million.

The 2016 average annual wage was $38,371, well below the state’s average annual wage of $59,073 and ranked 21st in the state. 

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 2015, the per capita personal income was $31,681 in Ferry County, less than the state ($51,898). Ferry County has ranked 39th in the state in terms of per capital personal income for the past five years.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $38,125 in 2011 to 2015, less than the median for the state at $61,062.

In the period 2011 to 2015, 20.4 percent of Ferry County’s population was living below the poverty level, higher than the state’s level of 12.2 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts. 

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(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Ferry County’s population was estimated at 7,614 in 2016. It grew at a rate of 0.8 percent from 2010 to 2016 compared to the state’s growth rate of 8.4 percent.

The largest city in Ferry County is Republic (population 1,090 in 2016).

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Ferry County Washington state
 Population 2016 7,614  7,288,000 
 Population 2010 7,551  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2016 0.8%  8.4% 

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Ferry County has an older population than does the state.

  • In Ferry County, those 65 and older made up 25.1 percent of Ferry County’s 2016 population compared to the state’s 14.8 percent.
  • Residents under 18 made up 17.4 percent of Ferry County’s population compared to 22.4 percent for the state.

Ferry County showed less diversity in 2015 than did the state in all racial/ethnic categories except American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Colville Confederated Tribe owns a significant portion of the county.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Ferry County Washington state
 Population by age, 2016
Under 5 years old 5.1  6.2% 
Under 18 years old 17.4%  22.4% 
65 years and older 25.1%  14.8% 
 Females, 2016 48.3%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2016
White 76.4%  80.0% 
Black 0.6%  4.1% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 16.9%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 1.3%  9.4% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 4.5%  12.4% 

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Most of Ferry County residents age 25 and older (87.3 percent) were high school graduates, which compares with 90.4 percent of Washington State’s residents, over the period 2011 to 2015.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 16.7 percent of Ferry County residents age 25 and older compared to 32.9 percent of state residents over the same period

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Useful links

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