Franklin County profile

Washington state map with Franklin county highlightedby Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist - updated December 2019

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


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 people 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

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

Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts


Local population growth, which has increased by 20.7 percent since 2010, continues to drive demand for more educational and healthcare services.

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, wholesale trade, healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, and real estate and rental and leasing.

Average annual employment growth in Franklin County was 2.3 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 1.7 percent a year through 2022 and 1.1 percent from 2022 to 2027.

Industries that are projected to add the most jobs include construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, financial activities, private and public education and healthcare services, and leisure and hospitality.

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Labor force and unemployment

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

The Franklin County total resident labor force was estimated at 41,496 in 2018, which was 2.1 percent higher than in 2017. The Franklin County unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in 2018, which was 0.2 percent less than in 2017. The resident labor force employment increased by 913 jobs over the year to 38,981, while the number of unemployed residents decreased by 60 to 2,515 in 2018.

The labor force picture is starting to improve after a slight decline in 2013. The labor force participation rate was 66.4 percent in 2018, compared to 68.0 in 2017. It is more volatile year to year in Franklin County compared to the state because of the county’s core agricultural industries.

The most current data show that the Franklin County November 2019 preliminary unemployment rate was 6.2 percent, an increase of 0.3 percent from the 5.9 percent reading in November 2018.

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA

Industry employment

Current industry employment statistics are available on the Labor area summaries page on ESD’s labor market information website.

Total covered employment in Franklin County was 34,825 in 2018, which has grown by 2.5 percent or 848 jobs since 2017. The five-year average annual growth rate of Franklin County covered employment was 2.3 percent.

The average annual wage for covered employment in Franklin County was $42,362 in 2018, an increase of 6.5 percent over the year. Franklin County total covered annual payroll in 2018 was $1.48 billion, which is 9.2 percent higher than in 2017.

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA

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Top 10 industries in Franklin County in 2018

Rank Industry Percent of total jobs
 1   Agriculture  19.7% 
 2   Government  18.8% 
 3   Manufacturing  10.5% 
 4   Retail trade 9.6% 
 5   Healthcare and social assistance   8.3% 
 6   Accommodation and food services  6.2% 
 7   Construction 5.9% 
 8   Wholesale trade  5.5% 
 9   Transportation and warehousing  4.1% 
 10   Administrative and waste services  3.1% 

Source: Employment Security Department, QCEW

Goods-producing industries, which include natural resources, mining, construction and manufacturing, increased in employment from 2017 to 2018 by 1.0 percent, or 123 jobs.

Average annual employment in 2018 was 12,564 workers and annual wages totaled $491.0 million, with an increase over the year of 8.0 percent. Total payrolls translated to a $39,081 average annual wage for goods-producing workers.

  • Manufacturing decreased employment over the year by 0.8 percent or by 28 jobs to 3,641 in 2018, with average annual pay of $45,619. Manufacturing represented about 10.5 percent of total covered employment.
    • The food manufacturing subsector decreased by 2.2 percent over the year and provides over 2,811 jobs with an average annual wage of $43,908.
  • Construction accounted for 5.9 percent of the total average annual employment in the county, or 2,070 jobs.
    • The average annual wage in construction was $52,797 in 2018.
    • Over the year, the construction sector increased by 8.0 percent. Construction activities are moving forward with new housing developments to accommodate the current population demand, along with all the new commercial construction.
  • Agriculture is the number one industry in Franklin County, representing 19.7 percent of total employment. It is, however, highly seasonal and volatile from year to year.
    • Average annual employment in agriculture in 2018 was 6,853, with an increase over the year of 0.2 percent.
    • The average annual wage in agriculture was $31,466, mainly due to the seasonality of agricultural activities.
    • Crop production represents 52.5 percent of total agriculture, which is largely in non-citrus fruit farming including apple orchards, grape vineyards and other produce.
    • Support activities shared 37.0 percent of employment, which includes post-harvest crop activity.

Service-providing industries in 2018 have a 63.9 percent share of Franklin County’s total employment. There was an average of 22,261 jobs in this industry, which paid an average annual wage of $44,212 in 2018. Over the year, service-providing industries increased by 3.4 percent, or 722 new jobs.

  • Retail trade is the largest employing private service industry in Franklin County, representing 9.6 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 2018, this industry had an average of 3,349 jobs, which paid an average annual wage of $35,181.
    • The retail trade industry increased 1.7 percent over the year, with many industry segments contributing to the job expansion.
  • Healthcare and social assistance employment in the private sector was 2,907 jobs, which represented about 8.3 percent of total employment in 2018. 
    • The average annual wage in this industry was $42,503.
    • Five-year average annual growth rate in this industry has been over 9.5 percent, with continuous growth due to population expansion and demand.
  • Public administration is the largest service-providing industry in Franklin County with an 18.8 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 6,544 in 2018, and an average annual wage of $52,994.

For historical industry employment data, contact an economist.

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA, QCEW

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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.

Franklin County highlights:

In 2018, the largest share of employment was held by those 35 to 44 years of age with a 22.1 percent share. The second largest share is in 25 to 34 year–olds at 21.9 percent. These county numbers are close to the state’s figure of 22.6 and 23.3 percent, respectively. In addition, 45 to 54 year-olds had a 19.7 percent share of employment in Franklin County.

  • The county’s demographics showed male workers held 56.3 percent and females held 43.7 percent of all jobs.
  • Male-dominated industries included mining (83.4 percent), wholesale trade (80.8 percent), construction (79.0 percent), transportation and warehousing (77.7 percent), utilities (71.2 percent) and public administration (68.8 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (79.1 percent), educational services (69.0 percent), finance and insurance (66.4 percent), professional, scientific and technical services (56.5) and accommodation and food services (54.5 percent).

Source: The Local Employment Dynamics

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Wages and income

In 2018, there were 34,825 jobs in Franklin County covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $1.48 billion.

The average annual wage was $42,362, well below the state’s average annual wage of $66,195. The median hourly wage in 2018 was at $18.51, below the state’s median hourly wage of $25.98.

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 2018, Franklin County’s personal income totaled $3.5 million, which translates into a $37,390 per capita personal income. Franklin County’s per capita personal income was 39.7 percent less than the state ($62,026) and 31.3 percent less than the nation ($54,446).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $62,002 in 2014 through 2018. The county’s median was less than that of the state ($70,116) during the same period.

Franklin County’s poverty rate of 13.4 percent was higher than Washington state’s rate of 10.3 percent and the nation’s rate of 11.8 percent in 2014 through 2018, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts.

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

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In 2019, Franklin County’s population was 94,347. Since 2010, Franklin County has had a 20.7 percent growth rate. In comparison, the state grew by 13.2 percent from 2010 to 2019.

The largest city in Franklin County is Pasco, the county seat, with a population of 73,590 in 2019.

Population facts

Franklin County Washington state
 Population 2019 94,347  7,614,893 
 Population 2010 78,163  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2019 20.7%  13.2% 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts

Age, gender and ethnicity

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

  • Almost one-third of Franklin County’s population (32.4 percent) was under 18 years of age compared to the state (22.1 percent) in 2019.
  • Residents under the age of 5 years old made up 9.0 percent of the county’s total population compared to 6.1 percent in the state in 2019.
  • In 2019, Franklin County’s population 65 years and older made up 9.2 percent of the total compared to 15.4 percent of the state’s population.

The county was 48.3 percent female compared to 50.0 percent for the state in 2019.

Franklin County was the first county in the region to have a majority of Hispanics in its population. In 2019, Franklin County was 40.0 percent white alone and not Hispanic compared to 68.0 percent in the state. Hispanics or Latinos were 53.5 percent of the population compared with 12.9 percent in the state.

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Franklin County Washington state
 Population by age, 2019
Under 5 years old 9.0%  6.1% 
Under 18 years old 32.4%  22.1% 
65 years and older 9.2%  15.4% 
 Females, 2019 48.3%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2019
White, not Hispanic 40.0%  68.0% 
Black 2.9%  4.3% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.7%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 2.8%  10.1% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 53.5%  12.9% 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts

Educational attainment

High school graduates among Franklin County’s population 25 years and older totaled 74.8 percent, lower than the state (91.1 percent) in 2014 through 2018.

Those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher made up 17.3 percent of Franklin 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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