Ferry County profile

Washington state map with Ferry county highlightedby Doug Tweedy, regional labor economist - updated November 2019

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,  will close 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 loss 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 ten months of 2019 (2,539) was up slightly compared to the same period in 2018 (2,490).

The preliminary county unemployment rate for the first ten months of 2019 was 11.8 percent. In 2018, the rate was 11.9 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 1,700 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 ten months of 2019 decreased slightly from the same period in 2018.

  • Goods-producing employment is averaging 280 jobs in the first ten months of 2019, the same as the 2018 annual average of 280. A majority of these jobs are in manufacturing.
  • Service-providing employment is averaging 1,420 jobs in the first ten months of 2019. According to the most recent estimates, government, the largest employment sector, is slightly down from 2018.

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. Some highlights:

The largest job holder age group in Ferry County in 2018 was the 55 and older group at 29.0 percent. This percentage was closely followed by job holders aged 45 to 54, with 20.4 percent of the workforce.

In 2018, 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 (97.1 percent), construction (88.1 percent) and manufacturing (79.3 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included finance and insurance (79.5 percent), healthcare and social assistance (64.5 percent) and accommodation and food services (74.9 percent).

Source: The Local Employment Dynamics

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Wages and income

In 2018, there were 1,729 jobs covered by unemployment insurance with a total payroll of over $66.4 million.

The 2018 average annual wage was $38,431, well below the state’s average annual wage of $66,195 and ranked 32nd 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 2017, the per capita personal income was $35,771 in Ferry County, less than the state ($57,896). Ferry County has ranked 38th 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 10.3 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 7,649 in 2018. It grew at a rate of 1.3 percent from 2010 to 2018 compared to the state’s growth rate of 12.1 percent.

The largest city in Ferry County is Republic.

Population facts

Ferry County Washington state
 Population 2018 7,649  7,535,591 
 Population 2010 7,554  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2018 1.3%  12.1% 

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 27.2 percent of Ferry County’s 2018 population compared to the state’s 15.4 percent.
  • Residents under 18 made up 17.4 percent of Ferry County’s population compared to 22.1 percent for the state.

Ferry County showed less diversity in 2018 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, 2018
Under 5 years old 4.8%  6.1% 
Under 18 years old 17.4%  22.1% 
65 years and older 27.2%  15.4% 
 Females, 2018 48.9%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2018
White 75.7%  78.9% 
Black 0.7%  4.3% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 17.1%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 1.3%  10.1% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 5.0%  12.9% 

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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