Ferry County profile

Washington state map with Ferry county highlightedby Doug Tweedy, regional labor economist - updated November 2020

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 and 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.

Geographic facts

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 

U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts

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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, closed in 2018. The indirect impact of the closure, due to the lost high-wage jobs, will impact local businesses and schools. However, a trend of unemployed miners working in other mines around the country, but continuing to keep their residencies in Ferry County, will help offset lost jobs and wages. Still, Ferry County is likely to experience decreases in employment and income.

Labor force and unemployment

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

The civilian labor force for the first nine months of 2020 (2,464) was up slightly compared to the same period in 2019 (2,437). A remarkable accomplishment during a pandemic and business lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19. Ferry, a rural county, was one of the first counties in the state to enter into the phase 3 business re-openings because of the low incidence of the virus (COVID-19) in the county.

The preliminary county unemployment rate for the first nine months of 2020 was 12.4 percent. In 2019, the rate was 11.7 percent for the same period. The unemployment rate peaked in 2010 at 17.5 percent.

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA

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Industry employment

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

Ferry County has 1,790 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 nine months of 2020 increased by 111 jobs from the same period in 2019.

  • Goods-producing employment is averaging 220 jobs in the first nine months of 2020, a decrease from the 2019 annual average of 280. Many of these jobs are in manufacturing
  • Service-providing employment is averaging 1,570 jobs in the first nine months of 2020, an increase over the 2019 annual average of 1,400. According to the most recent estimates, government, the largest employment sector, has increased 70 jobs from 2019.

For historical industry employment data, contact an economist.

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA

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.

Ferry County highlights:

The largest job holder age group in Ferry County in 2019 was the 45 to 54 cohort at 21.6 percent. This percentage was closely followed by job holders aged 35 to 44, with 21.5 percent of the workforce.

In 2019, men held 51.6 percent of the jobs in Ferry County, and women held 48.4 percent. There were substantial differences in gender dominance by industry.

  • Male-dominated industries included transportation and warehousing (75.0 percent), construction (86.4 percent) and manufacturing (77.2 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (90.0 percent), healthcare and social assistance (63.1 percent) and accommodation and food services (70.4 percent).

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA, County Data Tables

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Wages and income

In 2019, there were 1,677 jobs covered by unemployment insurance with a total payroll of over $67.25 million.

The 2019 average annual wage was $40,102, well below the state’s average annual wage of $69,615.

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 2019, the per capita personal income was $37,311 in Ferry County, less than the state ($64,758). Ferry County has ranked 39th in the state in terms of per capital personal income.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $41,924 in 2014 to 2018, less than the median for the state at $70,116.

In the period 2014 to 2018, 17.8 percent of Ferry County’s population was living below the poverty level, higher than the state’s level of 9.8 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA; Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts

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Ferry County’s population was estimated at 7,627 in 2019. It grew at a rate of 1.0 percent from 2010 to 2019 compared to the state’s growth rate of 13.2 percent.

The largest city in Ferry County is Republic.

Population facts

Ferry County Washington state
 Population 2019 7,627  7,614,893 
 Population 2010 7,554  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2019 1.0%  13.2% 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts

Age, gender and ethnicity

Ferry County has an older population than does the state.

  • In Ferry County, those 65 and older made up 28.2 percent of Ferry County’s 2019 population compared to the state’s 15.9 percent.
  • Residents under 18 made up 16.4 percent of Ferry County’s population compared to 21.8 percent for the state.

Ferry County showed less diversity in 2019 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.

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Ferry County Washington state
 Population by age, 2019
Under 5 years old 4.4%  6.0% 
Under 18 years old 16.4%  21.8% 
65 years and older 28.2%  15.9% 
 Females, 2019 48.6%  49.9% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2019
White 76.1%  78.5% 
Black 0.8%  4.4% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 16.6%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, & other Pacific Islander 1.4%  10.4% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 4.8%  13.0% 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts

Educational attainment

Most Ferry County residents age 25 and older (86.1 percent) were high school graduates, which compares with 91.1 percent of Washington state’s residents, over the period 2014 to 2018.

Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 18.2 percent of Ferry County residents age 25 and older compared to 35.3 percent of state residents over the same period.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts

Useful links

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