Franklin County profile

Washington state map with Franklin county highlightedby Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist - updated September 2017

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


Regional context

Franklin County, named for Benjamin Franklin, was created from Whitman County in 1883. The county is located in southeastern Washington at the convergence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. The Columbia River forms its western border and the Snake River forms its southern and eastern borders. Adams County is to its north. The railroads secured the county’s future as towns grew up around its railroad stations. Ranching and farming have continued to be the economic mainstay of Franklin County. It ranked 27th in the state in terms of land area and 15th in the state in persons per square mile (62.9) in 2010.

Local economy

Native Americans were the first people who inhabited this area, hunting game and fishing salmon. In the 1850s, white prospectors traveled through the area to the gold rush in British Columbia. Some stayed to raise sheep and plant orchards. The 1855 treaty agreements resulted in the native people ceding their lands to the United States and moving onto reservations.

In the 1800s, cattle and horse ranches dominated much of the northern county while orchards flourished elsewhere. With the coming of the railroad, settlements started at the mouth of the Snake River. Pasco was connected to Kennewick through ferry-operated services and steamboats, which ended in 1887 when the first railroad bridge connected Pasco to Kennewick. The railroad furthered development throughout the 1900s. There were settlements of Chinese who worked for the railroad. Some of the Chinese panned gold and operated businesses in the rail towns.

There was unremarkable growth until World War II when the U.S. Army-Air Force base moved to Pasco and the Hanford project moved to Richland. In 1948, the first farm received water from the Grand Coulee Dam irrigation system. Manufacturing and storage facilities, including ice houses and fruit-packing facilities, followed.

The 1990s and 2000s brought increasing industrial diversity with continued agriculture and food manufacturing as its economic base. The economic downturn, however, did not spare Franklin County. The county’s rate of unemployment has risen and the length of joblessness has increased. Construction, real estate and rental and leasing were the industries that lost the most employment during the recession. Industries that are creating stability in the area include food manufacturing, agriculture and private and public educational and healthcare services.

Franklin County became the first Hispanic-majority county in the Pacific Northwest. It is also one of the region’s fastest growing counties.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County Rank in state
 Land area, 2010 (square miles) 1,242.17  27 
 Persons per square mile, 2010 62.9  15 

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Local population growth, which is increased by 15.3 percent since 2010, continues to drive demand for more educational services as well as healthcare

The good news is that the housing market in the county is stable with growing housing inventories and affordable prices. Over the past year there have been many industries that have contributed to the job growth in Franklin County including construction, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, real estate, rental and leasing, administrative services, accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment and recreation, and government.

Average annual employment growth in Franklin County was 2.6 percent for the past five years.

Nonfarm employment projections are done for Benton and Franklin Counties combined and the two counties together are expected to grow at the rate of 2.0 percent a year through 2020.

Industries that are projected to add the most jobs include private and public education, health care, transportation and warehousing, and leisure and hospitality.

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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 Franklin County total resident labor force was estimated at 39,969 in 2016, which was 2.6 percent higher than in 2015. The Franklin County unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in 2016, which was same as in 2015. The resident labor force employment increased by 931 jobs over the year to 36,913, while number of unemployed residents increased by 80 to 3,056 in 2016. The labor force picture is starting to improve after a slight decline in 2013. The labor force participation rate in Franklin County was around 64.9 percent as of 2015, with a slight increase from 2014. The labor force participation rate is little bit more volatile year to year in Franklin County than that in the state (64.1 percent) because of its core agricultural industry.

The most current data show that the Franklin County July 2017 preliminary unemployment rate was 4.8 percent, which decreased by 1.6 percent from the 6.4 percent reading in July 2016.

Preliminary July 2017 estimates for the Franklin County show that the total civilian labor force was up by 2.4 percent, from 41,770 in July 2016 to 42,789 in July 2017. The number of employed residents was 40,730 in July 2017, up by 2.8 percent from 39,094 in July 2016. At the same time the number of unemployed workers decreased by 617 from 2,676 in July 2016 to 2,059 in July 2017.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Total covered employment in Franklin County was 33,717 in 2016, which has grown by 1.6 percent or 530 jobs since 2015. The five-year average annual growth rate of Franklin County covered employment was 2.6 percent.

The average annual wage for covered employment in Franklin County was $38,177 in 2016, an increase of 3.5 percent over the year. Franklin County total covered annual payroll in 2016 was at $1.3 billion which is 5.1 percent higher than in 2015.

In 2016, according to the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, there were 2,602 total establishments in Franklin County. Private establishments provided about 27,463 jobs or 81.5 percent of the total in 2016 and public administration provided 6,254 jobs or 18.5 percent of the total employment in 2016.

Top 10 Industries in Franklin County

(Source: Employment Security Department, QCEW)

Rank Industry % of Total
 1   Agriculture  19.5% 
 2   Government  18.5% 
 3   Manufacturing  11.9% 
 4   Retail trade 8.5% 
 5   Wholesale trade   8.0% 
 6   Health care and social assistance  7.8% 
 7   Construction 6.8% 
 8   Accommodation and food services  6.3% 
 9   Transportation and warehousing  4.5% 
 10   Administrative and waste services  3.9% 

Goods-producing industries, which include natural resources, mining, construction and manufacturing, increased in employment from 2015 to 2016 by 3.3 percent, or 101 jobs.

Average monthly employment in 2016 was 12,171 workers and annual wages totaled $425.8 million, with an increase over the year of 3.3 percent. Total payrolls translates to a $34,987 average annual wage for goods-producing workers.

  • Manufacturing decreased employment over the year by 1.7 percent or by 65 jobs to 3,737 in 2016, with average annual pay of $40,839. Manufacturing represented about 11.9 percent of total covered employment.
    • The food manufacturing subsector increased by 1.8 percent over the year, and this provides over 2,984 jobs with average annual wage at $39,089.
  • Construction accounted for 6.8 percent of the total average annual employment in the county with 1,860 jobs.
    • The average annual wage in construction was $47,197 in 2016.
    • Over the year the construction sector increased by 6.7 percent. Construction activities are moving forward with new housing developments to accommodate the current demand.
  • Agriculture is number one industry Franklin County, representing 19.5 percent of total employment. It is, however, highly seasonal and volatile from year to year.
    • Average annual employment in agriculture in 2016 was 6,574, with a decrease over the year of 2.3 percent.
    • The average annual wage in agriculture was at $28,205, mainly due to the seasonality of agricultural activities.
    • Crop production represents 52.3 percent of total agriculture, which is largely in non-citrus fruit farming, including apple orchards, grape vineyards and other produce.
    • Support activities shared 37.8 percent of employment, which includes post-harvest crop activity.

Service-providing industries in 2016 have a 64.4 percent share of Franklin County’s total employment. There was an average of 21,439 jobs in this industry, which paid an average annual wage of $40,179 in 2016. Over the year, service-providing industries increased by 2.8 percent, or by 575 jobs.

  • Retail trade is the largest employing private service industry in Franklin County, representing 8.5 percent of total employment and the fourth largest of all industries after agriculture, government and manufacturing. Retail trade is a very stable industry and in 2016 this industry had an average of 3,327 jobs, which paid an average annual wage of $32,803. Retail trade industry marks 6.5 percent increase over the year, with continuous increases of 4.1 percent a year since 2011.
  • Healthcare and social assistance employment in the private sector was was 2,573 jobs, which represented about 7.8 percent of total employment in 2016. The average annual wage in this industry was $38,917. Five year average annual growth rate of this industry has been over 5.9 percent, with continuous growth due to population expansion and demand.
  • Public administration is the largest service-providing industry in Franklin County with an 18.5 percent share of total employment. The largest share of employment in this industry is in the local school administration and healthcare services as there is more demand by growing population. This industry had an average annual employment of 6,254 in 2016, and an average annual wage of $48,389.

 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, the largest share of employment was held by those 25 to 34 years of age with 22.2 percent share. Second largest share is in 35 to 44 year-olds at 21.9 percent, which is close to the state’s figure of 22.9 percent, which is followed by 35 to 44 with 22.2 percent. Also, 45 to 54 years olds had a 19.9 percent share of employment in the Franklin County.
  • The county’s demographics showed male workers held 56.1 percent and females held 43.9 percent of all jobs.
    • Male-dominated industries included wholesale trade (81.0 percent), transportation and warehousing (78.9 percent), construction (78.6 percent), utilities (71.5 percent), and public administration (68.5 percent).
    • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (79.8 percent), finance and insurance (69.5 percent), educational services (69.0 percent), professional, scientific, and technical services (59.2), and accommodation and food services (54.9 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 33,717 jobs in Franklin County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $1.3 billion.

The average annual wage was $38,178, well below the state’s average annual wage of $59,073. The median hourly wage in 2016 was at $17.08, below the state’s median hourly wage of $23.31.

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, Franklin County’s personal income totaled $3.1 million, which translates into a $33,955 per capita personal income. Franklin County’s per capita personal income was 37.0 percent less than the state ($51,898) and 32.2 percent less than the nation ($48,112).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $59,664 in 2015. The county’s median was less than that of the state ($64,129) during the same period.

Franklin County’s poverty rate of 15.8 percent was higher than Washington state’s rate of 12.2 percent and the nation’s rate of 14.7 percent in 2015, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts.

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(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

In 2016, Franklin County’s population was 90,160. Since 2010, Franklin County has had a 15.3 percent growth rate. In comparison, the state grew by 8.4 percent from 2010 to 2016.

The largest city in Franklin County is Pasco, the county seat, with a population of 69,451 in 2016.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County Washington state
 Population 2016 90,160  7,288,000 
 Population 2010 78,163  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2016 15.3%  8.4% 

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County has a much younger population than does the state.

  • Over one-third of Franklin County’s population (33.1 percent) was under 18 years of age compared to the state (22.4 percent) in 2016.
  • Residents under the age of 5 years old made up 9.3 percent of the county’s total population compared to 6.2 percent in the state in 2016.
  • In 2016, Franklin County’s population 65 years and older made up 8.6 percent of the total compared to 14.8 percent of the state’s population.

The county was 48.4 percent female compared to 50.0 percent for the state in 2016.

Franklin County was the first county in the region to have a majority of Hispanics in its population. In 2016, Franklin County was 40.7 percent white alone and not Hispanic compared to 69.5 percent in the state. Hispanics or Latinos were 53.0 percent of the population compared with 12.4 percent in the state.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Franklin County Washington state
 Population by age, 2016
Under 5 years old 9.3%  6.2% 
Under 18 years old 33.1%  22.4% 
65 years and older 8.6%  14.8% 
 Females, 2016 48.4%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2016
White, not Hispanic 40.7%  69.5% 
Black 2.9%  4.1% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.6%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 2.7%  9.4% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 53.0%  12.4% 

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

High school graduates among Franklin County’s population 25 years and older totaled 73.6 percent, lower than the state (90.4 percent) in 2011 - 2015.

Those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 15.9 percent of Franklin County residents age 25 and older compared to 32.9 percent of state residents over the same period.

percent of state residents.

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Useful links

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