Garfield County profile

Washington state map with Garfield county highlightedby Ajsa Suljic, regional labor economist - updated November 2018

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


Regional context

Garfield County was formed from the eastern portion of Columbia County by an act of the Washington Territorial Legislature in 1881. Garfield County is bordered by Whitman County on the north, Asotin County on the east, Columbia County on the west and on the south by Wallowa County, Oregon. The Snake River makes up its northern and northeastern borders and is an essential part of its economic existence.

Garfield County is the seventh-smallest county in the state, with only 710.5 square miles. Before white exploration and settlement, the semi-nomadic Nez Perce inhabited the area on both sides of the Nez Perce Trail as means of commerce, which was of strategic importance to the development of the region.

The establishment of the territory and the end of the Indian Wars resulted in an influx of white settlers into the county. Garfield County settlers came and started farming and ranching in the area. Later some settlers started communities in the Patah Creek area, today’s Pomeroy City, with the first known commercial establishment being a stage station and “eating house” (shaver). By 1875 there were an estimated 200 farms in the area which produced major crops of pears, wheat, blue grass and others. Garfield County is the least populated county in the state of Washington, ranking 39thamong 39 Washington counties, with population of 2,256 people in 2013, or 3.2 per square mile.

Local economy

The Garfield County workforce is employed primarily in government services (around 68.5 percent in total). While local government makes up the biggest share of that employment, federal government employment is very significant for the area by providing stable and higher paying jobs.

Farmland occupies over two-thirds of the county’s total land usage. The main crop is dry land wheat. The total value of agricultural sales tends to be in the same range as the total wages earned for the county.

As of the 2012 Agricultural Census, the county had 211 farms with an average size of 1,462 acres. The market value of agricultural products sold was $48,208 million, with 92 percent of that being from crop sales. About 37 percent of farms in Garfield County have a value of crop sales over $100,000.

Demographics also play a role in Garfield County’s economy as a high proportion of elderly residents continue to increase demand for local health care services, which in this county are mostly provided by the government sector. Healthcare and social services are projected to grow at a faster than average rate.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Garfield County Rank in state
 Land area, 2010 (square miles) 710.69  33 
 Persons per square mile, 2010 3.2  39 

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Garfield County’s employment has fluctuated up and down in the past ten years. Garfield County covered employment continues its decline with the new 10 year low. This marks a ten year average annual decline of 1.5 percent since 2007. Since the recession of 2007, covered employment has not recovered and continues its downward trend, which puts a lot of strain on economic wellbeing of this small rural county.

Wholesale trade and retail trade will continue to be the cluster that provides the most private sector jobs. Major agricultural commodities will remain in production as long as there is demand and proper weather conditions. Government employment is the leading employing industry and the only one that has shown stability.

There are some promising opportunities in future job development from Columbia Pulp project, which might shape the future of the county jobs in the next 5 to 10 years.

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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.

In 2017, the county labor force was estimated at 916, marking an eight year downward trend. The number of people employed was estimated at 866, while about 50 people were estimated to be unemployed and looking for work. Resident employment remained the same while the number of people looking for employment decreased and dropped out of the labor force.

Unemployment was down to 5.5 percent in 2017 from 5.8 percent in 2016. Yearly averages in the labor force show some volatility, which is associated with the government and seasonal agricultural economic base.

The average annual unemployment rate in Garfield County in 2008 was the lowest in 14 years, at 4.6 percent before it peaked again in 2010 at 8.1 percent. The unemployment rate fluctuates throughout the year, reflecting the seasonal employment, with lows in September or October each year and peaks in January or February.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Garfield County’s average covered employment was 686 in 2017, a 5.2 decrease over the year. County has an annual decrease of 1.7 percent for the past ten years. Almost all employment in Garfield County is in service providing industries, specifically government employment at 68.5 percent of total. Garfield County total covered payrolls were at $31.0 million in 2017, up by 3.0 percent over the year.

  • Goods-producing industries in Garfield County provided around 49 jobs. The majority of employment in this segment was in agriculture. Agriculture remains stable over the years.
  • Service-providing industries averaged 639 jobs in 2017, we recorded decrease of 5.9 percent from 679 in 2016.
  • Garfield County service-providing employment is 71.4 government, 19.0 percent in trade, transportation and utilities and 2.9 percent in information and financial activities.
  • Government employment averaged 490 in 2017, which shows a decline of 20 jobs over the year.

 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 is presented by place of work, not place of residence. Some highlights:

The largest jobholder group in Garfield County in 2017 was the 55 to 64 years of age group with 23.8 percent of the workforce. Over the years the workforce has aged and now 43.3 percent of the workforce is between 45 and 64 years old.

The Garfield County workforce was mostly male in 2017; 51.2 percent of all industry jobs were held by men and 48.7 percent were held by women. Industry differences are discussed below:

  • Male-dominated industries included agriculture (83.7 percent), construction (88.9 percent), wholesale trade (75.8 percent), public administration (58.6 percent), finance and insurance (36.4 percent) and retail trade (34.6 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included accommodation and food services (79.3 percent), health care and social assistance (78.2 percent), finance and insurance (65.5 percent), retail trade (64.9 percent), and public administration (41.4 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 2017, Garfield County had 686 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of over $31.0 million.

The county annual average wage was $45,252 in 2017, which is well below the state’s average annual wage of $62,077. In 2017, Garfield County was ranked 15th in the state for average annual wages among 39 counties.

The Garfield County median hourly wage was $20.00 in 2017, which was well below the state’s median hourly wage of $24.89 and below the state, without King County, median wage of $22.00.

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 2016 the per capita income in Garfield County was $43,447, with decrease over the year of 1.6 percent. Nonetheless, income was well below the state’s per capita income of $54,579 and the national income of $49,246 according to Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Median household income over the period 2012 to 2016 was $51,395, well below the state’s $62,484, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts.

Over the period 2012 to 2016, 13.9 percent of the population was living below the poverty level in Garfield County. This compares to 11.0 percent of the state.

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(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

According to the Census estimates for 2017, Garfield County’s population was 2,210. Garfield County’s population decreased by 2.5 percent from 2010 to 2017. This county continues to age out and younger populations leave for other opportunities elsewhere.

The Garfield County seat and the largest city is Pomeroy with population of 1,395 in 2017. The second notable city is Pataha City.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Garfield County Washington state
 Population 2017 2,210  7,405,743 
 Population 2010 2,266  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2017 -2.5%  10.1% 

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey)

Garfield County has a large retirement age community with 26.2 percent of the population being 65 years of age or older.

  • Garfield County’s population age 65 and older was 26.2 percent in 2017 compared to the state’s 15.1 percent.
  • Those under 18 years of age made up 20.2 percent in 2017 compared to the state’s 22.2 percent.
  • The youngest age group, those under 5 years of age, was 6.2 percent in 2017, compared to the state’s 6.2 percent.

Females’ made up 51.1 percent of the county’s population, which is slightly above the state’s 50.0 percent.

Diversity in the county shows that 94.5 percent of residents are white, with 5.7 percent of Hispanic or Latino origin, compared to the state’s 79.5 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey)

Garfield County Washington state
Population by age, 2017
Under 5 years old 6.2%  6.2% 
Under 18 years old 20.2%  22.2% 
65 years and older 26.2%  15.1% 
Females, 2017 51.1%  50.0% 
Race/ethnicity, 2017
White 94.5%  79.5% 
Black 0.1%  4.2% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 0.6%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 2.2%  9.7% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 5.7%  12.7% 

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Over the period 2012 to 2016, 96.4 percent of individuals age 25 and older were high school graduates, which is higher than that of Washington State (90.6 percent).

Over the same period, it’s estimated that 24.2 percent of people in Garfield County 25 and older have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher. This figure does not compare favorably with the state (33.6 percent).

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Useful links

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