Grant County profile
by Don Meseck, regional labor economist - updated February 2019
In 1902, Grant County was carved out of Douglas County as its own county. Grant County is the fourth largest county in the state in terms of land area, but is sparsely populated. It is located toward the central-eastern edge of the state in the Columbia Basin. On the north end of the county is the Grand Coulee Dam, which is the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States and one of the largest concrete structures in the world.
Grant County is relatively flat, making it ideal for raising livestock on its dry grassland, which was the primary draw for white settlers in the mid-1880s. The coming of the railroad helped move more settlers into farming as it provided a means to get products to market. The semi-arid climate created a challenge for farming, with most farmers locating near water sources.
Grant County industry has been heavily concentrated in ranching and agriculture. Many of the county’s early residents were sheep and cattle ranchers. The transition to fruit and crop farming as the dominant industries resulted from the development of adequate irrigation capacity starting in the 1930s.
Today, agriculture still plays a large role for the area, which is known for its tree fruit, irrigated farming of a variety of crops and the associated food processing industry, which makes up a large part of the nondurable-goods manufacturing sector. In 2017 for example, food processing (NAICS 311) provided 42.0 percent of the 4,874 manufacturing jobs in Grant County. Employers in this sector manufacture frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen specialty foods and canned fruits. Grant County food processors know and trust the quality and variety of locally grown crops including potatoes, apples, wheat, barley, carrots, corn, onions, peaches, cherries, mint, beans, etc. According to the Grant County Economic Development Council, the county’s 1,858 farms annually produce crops and livestock valued at $1.19 billion. Crops processed here in Grant County make food processing a $364 million industry which still has plenty of room to grow. Access to Interstate 90 and the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Mainline makes it easy to transport goods by truck or rail to major metro centers such as Seattle, Portland and Chicago. Some of the food processors in Grant County are: Amway/Nutrilite, AstaReal, Basic American Foods, Lamb Weston, Washington Potato Co., Pacific Coast Canola, Quincy Foods, J. R. Simplot Co., and National Frozen Foods.
A testimony to the importance of agriculture to the Grant County economy was provided in the 2012 Agricultural Census produced by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). According to the NASS, in calendar year 2012, Grant County registered the highest volume of agricultural sales ($1.7 billion) in all of Washington’s 39 counties. Crop and livestock sales in the County were $1.1 billion in 2007, the last year in which NASS released county-level sales data. A July 9, 2014 Columbia Basin Herald article entitled Grant County Leads Washington State in Agricultural Sales reported: “The increase between the 2007 and 2012 census was enough to bump Grant County up one spot on the state's list of top agricultural sellers. In 2007, Grant County had the No. 2 spot on the list, coming in after Yakima County which recorded $1.2 billion in agricultural sales that year.” Yakima County came in a close second to Grant County during 2012, tallying $1.6 billion in sales.
The area’s low-cost electricity, availability of rail transportation, abundance of reasonably priced land, easy access to Interstate 90 and a high-speed fiber optic network have made Grant County attractive to software and manufacturing firms. For example, Microsoft, Intuit, NTT Data, Oath, Sabey, Vantage, and Server Farm Realty all call Grant County home. With a combined total of over 1.5 million square feet, these data center operations enjoy a diverse fiber optic network, reliable electric supply at the lowest costs in the nation, and a climate that allows for air economizers. Grant County is also home to an international airport, a foreign trade zone, industrial power rates that average 2.88 cents per kilowatt hour, a high-speed fiber optic network, low tax rates, a highly trained workforce, and an abundance inexpensive land. Interstate 90 virtually bisects the County. In addition, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe main line makes it easy to ship freight in and out of the area. These are some characteristics which have helped make Grant County a formidable location for industrial expansion, and have helped attract major manufacturing companies like SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, Genie Industries, REC Silicon, General Dynamics and Guardian Industries.
|Grant County||Washington state|
|Land area, 2010 (square miles)||2,679.51||66,455.52|
|People per square mile, 2010||33.3||101.2|
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)
The Grant County nonfarm economy has been on a recovery path since the depressed economic years of 2009 and 2010. During the past eight years (from 2011 through 2018, inclusive) average annual nonfarm job growth has ranged from lows of 0.7 percent in 2012 and 2017 to a high of 3.9 percent in 2014. It is encouraging that the pace of average annual nonfarm job growth in Grant County was 3.8 percent in 2018 – close to the 3.9 percent record growth pace in calendar year 2014.
Long-term nonfarm employment projections (ten-year data produced by the Employment Security Department) show a 1.3 percent average annual growth rate from 2016 to 2026 for the five-county (Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan) North Central Workforce Development Area (WDA). Washington state had a slightly more rapid growth rate at 1.6 percent.
Current labor force and unemployment statistics are available on the Labor area summaries page.
During the recent recession, the average annual not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Grant County rose to an apex of 10.9 percent in 2010. The unemployment rate then fell for seven consecutive years (from 2011 to 2017, inclusive) to 6.3 percent in 2017. Preliminary civilian labor force (CLF) data show that the average annual unemployment rate stabilized in 2018 at 6.3 percent. These 6.3-percent readings in 2017 and 2018 are the lowest average annual unemployment rates in Grant County since electronic records were implemented by our agency in 1990 – encouraging news for the local economy.
Grant County’s CLF expanded by 363 residents (a 0.8 percent increase) from 2017 to 2018. More recently, between December 2017 and December 2018, the local labor force grew by 586 residents, a 1.4 percent upturn. Less encouraging is the fact that the number of unemployed increased at a 5.3 percent pace with 186 more Grant County residents out of work in December 2018 than in December 2017. Hence, the December 2018 unemployment rate of 8.5 percent was a four-tenths point upturn from the 8.1 percent reading in December 2017.
Estimates indicate that Washington's CLF grew by 57,044 residents (a 1.5 percent upturn) from 2017 to 2018. The state’s labor force has expanded, year over year, for the past 59 months (February 2014 through December 2018). In December 2018, Washington’s CLF tallied 3,836,549 residents versus 3,748,141 in December 2017, equating to 88,408 more Washingtonians in the CLF (up 2.4 percent).
(Source: Employment Security Department)
Current industry employment statistics are available on the Labor area summaries page.
The analysis in the first part of this section is derived primarily from Quarterly Benchmarked (WA-QB) data. One advantage of these data is that the employment information is very current and data are updated monthly using WA-QB employment estimates. However, estimates are nonfarm related (i.e., they do not include agricultural employment figures).
The analysis in the second part of this section is derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) program, conducted by the Washington State Employment Security Department. Although it takes a little longer to acquire QCEW data (than WA-QB data), the economic information provided is broader and more detailed than that provided by WA-QB.
First, QCEW includes employment, wage and size of firm figures for the agricultural sector, which WA-QB does not include. Second, QCEW data provides employment, wage and size of firm figures for businesses and government organizations in Grant County down to the 3-digit NAICS sub-sector level (i.e., more detail than WA-QB). QCEW data include agricultural and nonagricultural employment and wages for firms, organizations and individuals whose employees are covered by the Washington State Employment Security Act. Also included are data for Federal Government agencies covered by Title 5, U.S.C. 85. Covered employment generally exceeds 85 percent of total employment in the state of Washington.
Types of jobs not covered under the unemployment compensation system, and hence not included in QCEW data, include casual laborers not performing duties in the course of the employer’s trade or business; railroad personnel; newspaper delivery people; insurance or real estate agents paid on a commission basis only; non-covered employees working for parochial schools, religious, or non-profit organizations; employees of sheltered workshops; inmates working in penal institutions; non-covered corporate officers; etc.
Analysis using Quarterly Benchmarked data:
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the national recession occurred from December 2007 through June 2009. The effects of this recession hit the Grant County economy lightly in 2008 (down 0.2 percent), hard in 2009 (down 3.7 percent) and then lightly in 2010 (down 0.3 percent), in terms of losses in total nonfarm employment. The number of nonfarm jobs across Grant County stood at a pre-recession peak of 27,610 jobs in 2007, and it took seven years (until 2014) for the local economy to regain and surpass this figure. In 2014, total nonfarm employment averaged 28,650 jobs. The following is a brief synopsis of average annual local nonfarm employment trends from 2008 through 2018:
- In 2008 – Total nonfarm employment ebbed 0.2 percent (down 60 jobs) to an average annual figure of 27,550. Nonfarm employment across Washington grew a modest 0.9 percent.
- In 2009 – Both Grant County and Washington state faced the full brunt of the national economic recession. Grant County’s nonfarm employment lost 1,030 jobs, a 3.7 percent contraction, from 27,550 jobs in 2008 to 26,520 in 2009. Manufacturing employment lost 660 jobs (down 14.3 percent), construction netted 130 fewer jobs (down 8.0 percent) and professional and business services, which includes temporary agencies, provided 510 fewer jobs (down 31.5 percent). If there was any consolation to the dismal performance of the local economy, it was that the state’s nonfarm market fared even worse – falling by 4.4 percent between 2008 and 2009.
- In 2010 – Total nonfarm employment dipped 0.3 percent (down 70 jobs) from 26,520 in 2009 to an average annual figure of 26,450. Although some industries fought back (i.e., nondurable goods manufacturing grew by 110 jobs and private education and health services averaged 180 more jobs), the local construction industry continued to tumble and job losses were severe. Construction plummeted from 1,490 to 1,200, an average annual loss of 290 jobs and a 19.5 percent retrenchment. The state’s nonfarm market contracted by 0.9 percent.
- In 2011 – Grant County’s economy rebounded. The number of nonfarm jobs rose from 26,450 in 2010 to 27,140 in 2011, a 2.6 percent and 690 job increase. This recovery was led by a 420 job average annual increase in manufacturing, which grew from 4,000 jobs in 2010 to 4,420 in 2011. Durable goods manufacturing lengthened payrolls by 14.8 percent while nondurable goods manufacturers saw employment rise by 7.3 percent. Washington’s economic recovery also got underway as total nonfarm employment expanded by 1.3 percent.
- In 2012 – The local nonfarm market expanded by 0.7 percent, to 27,340. This equated to a 200 job average annual upturn. Durable goods manufacturers in Grant County increased the number of workers from 1,780 to 1,920, accounting for 140 of this 200 job upturn. Washington’s nonfarm economy moved upwards by 1.6 percent between 2011 and 2012.
- In 2013 – Grant County’s economy advanced by 0.8 percent (up 230 jobs) to 27,570. State and local government education tallied 220 more jobs countywide in 2013 (3,410 jobs) than in 2012 (3,190 jobs), a 6.9 percent upturn. The tempo of nonfarm job growth improved more rapidly across Washington, as the state’s economy averaged 2.2 percent more jobs in 2013 than in 2012.
- In 2014 – This was a particularly good year for the local economy. Nonfarm employment averaged 28,650, a 1,080 job and 3.9 percent upturn above the 27,570 jobs tallied in 2013. Nonfarm growth was particularly strong in manufacturing (up 400) and in professional and business services (up 250). Statewide, the nonfarm labor market saw the number of jobs rise by 2.5 percent, the best growth rate in seven years (since the 2.6 percent expansion in 2007). Across Washington, the state’s nonfarm market rose by 2.5 percent.
- In 2015 – Grant County's economy provided 290 new nonfarm jobs, an average annual increase of 1.0 percent, less robust than the state’s 2.9 percent job growth rate. Although Grant County’s durable goods manufacturers provided 100 more jobs, wholesale trade and retail trade each netted 80 new jobs, and professional and business services rose by 180 jobs. During the same period, construction slipped by 30, private education and health services fell by 90, and state and local government education tallied 80 fewer jobs, accounting for a rather lackluster performance of the Grant County nonfarm economy. Statewide, the nonfarm market rose by 2.9 percent.
- In 2016 – Grant County's economy provided 240 new nonfarm jobs, an average annual increase of 0.8 percent, less robust than the growth rate in 2015 and considerably less robust that the state’s 3.1 percent job growth rate. Although Grant County’s nondurable goods manufacturers (primarily food processors) grew by 110 jobs, retail trade stores netted 120 more jobs, and state and local education rebounded by adding 110 jobs; durable goods manufacturers had a dismal economic year. This industry dropped 320 jobs (down 13.7 percent), falling from an average of 2,340 jobs countywide in 2015 to 2,020 in 2016.
- In 2017 – Grant County's economy provided 190 new nonfarm jobs, a modest average annual increase of 0.7 percent, less robust than the local job growth rate last year and considerably less robust that the state’s 2.4 percent job growth rate. Industries that fared well were professional and business services (up 170 jobs), state and local government education (up 120 jobs), and construction (up 100 jobs). Conversely, wholesale trade tallied 280 fewer jobs in 2017, primarily due to a non-economic event (a NAICS code change).
- In 2018 – This was an excellent year for the Grant County economy. Nonfarm employment averaged 30,480, a 1,110 job and 3.8 percent upturn above the 29,370 jobs tallied in 2017. Nonfarm growth was particularly strong in professional and business services (up 510 jobs), information and financial activities (up 270 jobs), and in construction (up 180 jobs). On the downside, durable goods manufacturing lost 170 jobs countywide. Statewide, the nonfarm labor market also had a good year, with nonfarm employment rising by 2.8 percent – again, not as robust as the 3.8 percent job growth pace here in Grant County.
Referring to the most current monthly WA-QB data (as of December 2018), it is noted that local nonfarm employment rose by 3.6 percent, from 28,600 jobs in December 2017 to 29,640 jobs in December 2018, a respectable 1,040 job upturn. Year over year, total nonfarm employment in Grant County has been rising now for the past twelve months (January through December 2018).
How does the state’s economy stack up? Relatively, things are looking pretty good for Grant County’s nonfarm market. Preliminary estimates indicate that between 2017 and 2018, Washington's labor market provided 93,400 new nonfarm jobs, an annual average increase of 2.8 percent. Grant County’s nonfarm market grew by 3.8 percent in 2018. In December 2018, businesses and government organizations across Washington supplied 3,465,200 nonfarm jobs (not seasonally adjusted), compared to 3,363,300 jobs in December 2017, a 3.0 percent year-over-year employment increase. Grant County’s job market grew a bit faster (3.6 percent) between December 2017 and December 2018, than Washington’s job market. However, the state’s economy has posted year over year nonfarm employment increases for the past 99 consecutive months (October 2010 through December 2018), longer than the 12-month growth streak (from January through December 2018) in Grant County.
Analysis using QCEW data:
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is an industry classification system that groups businesses/organizations into categories or sectors based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged. There are 19 private sectors and three government sectors (for a total of 22 sectors) at the 2-digit NAICS code level, within each county-level economy. One can observe much about the structure of a county’s economy by quantifying and comparing the number of jobs and the percentage of jobs in these sectors by using annual average QCEW data. The most recent average annual employment data available for Grant County are for 2017, and these data show:
The top five Grant County industry sectors in 2017 in terms of employment were:
|Sector||Number of jobs||Share of employment|
|1. Agriculture, forestry and fishing||10,240||26.1%|
|2. Local government||6,754||17.2%|
|4. Retail trade||3,439||8.8%|
|5. Health Services||2,676||6.8%|
|All other industries||11,239||28.7%|
|Total covered payrolls||39,221||100%|
More than 70 percent (71.3 percent, to be exact) of all jobs in Grant County were in five, two-digit NAICS industries or sectors (i.e., agriculture, local government, manufacturing, retail trade and health services). The following is a comparison of the top five sectors that provided the most jobs in Grant County in 2017 with the sectors that produced the highest payrolls:
- Agriculture provided 26.1 percent of all jobs countywide (10,240 jobs), yet tallied only 18.6 percent ($291.6 million) of total wage income ($1.572 billion). Why? Many agricultural jobs are seasonal.
- Local government provided 17.2 percent (6,754 jobs) of total covered employment (39,211 jobs) in Grant County, yet accounted for 22.5 percent ($353.2 million) of total wage income – indicating that this is a relatively “good paying” industry. Jobs with public school districts (primary and secondary schools), public utility districts, police and fire departments, public hospitals and clinics, ports, etc., are tallied under the local government category.
- Manufacturing provided 12.4 percent of covered jobs in Grant County in 2017, but accounted for 16.6 percent of covered wages. In 2017, the average annual wage in manufacturing in Grant County was $53,507, which was 133.5 percent of the average covered wage of $40,071. Incidentally, within the local manufacturing sector in 2017, the food manufacturing subsector (NAICS 311) provided 42.0 percent of all manufacturing jobs – emphasizing the importance of agriculture on local manufacturing operations.
- Retail trade stores provided 3,439 part- and full-time jobs in 2017, accounting for 8.8 percent of total covered employment in Grant County, but tallied only 6.3 percent of total covered wages/payroll.
- Private health services tallied 6.8 percent of total covered employment and 6.5 percent of total wage income.
If one were to analyze employment changes in Grant County from the past 10-year period (2007 through 2017, eleven years inclusive) using Washington State Employment Security Department’s annual average QCEW data, it is noted that:
- Total covered employment increased from 35,010 in 2007 to 39,221 in 2017, a 4,211 job and 12.0 percent upturn. The number of agricultural jobs (a subset of total covered employment) expanded from 8,434 in 2007 to 10,240 in 2017, a 1,878 job and 22.5 percent uptrend. In 2007, Grant County’s agricultural industry accounted for 23.9 percent of total covered employment, while in 2017, it accounted for 26.1 percent of total covered employment. However, agricultural employment as a percentage of total covered employment has slipped a bit during the past three consecutive years from 27.4 percent in 2014 to 26.1 percent 2017. Nevertheless, during the recent ten-year period (2007 to 2017), the agricultural share of employment in Grant County rose by 2.2 percentage points, from 23.9 percent (in 2007) to 26.1 percent (in 2017).
- Total covered wages rose from $1.037 billion (in 2007) to $1.572 billion (in 2017) a $534.2 million and 51.5 percent upturn. The agricultural payroll (a subset of total covered wages) advanced from $167.6 million in 2007 to $291.6 million in 2017, a $124.0 million and 74.0 percent uptrend. In 2007, Grant County’s agricultural industry accounted for 16.2 percent of total covered wages, and by 2017, agricultural wages accounted for 18.6 percent of total covered payroll. Hence, agricultural share of wages rose 2.4 percentage points (from 16.2 to 18.6 percent) in Grant County during this 10-year period. Hence, one could generalize that within this 10-year period, from both employment and wage perspectives, the footprint made by agriculture on Grant County’s economy has become larger.
For historical industry employment data, contact an economist.
(Source: Employment Security Department)
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.
Grant County highlights:
In 2017, the largest job holder age group was the 55+ year-olds who accounted for 24.7 percent of all job holders in Grant County. The group in second place was the 25-34 year-olds filling 20.9 percent of all jobs. In third place was the 45-54 year-olds working 20.4 percent of all local jobs.
Males held 54.5 percent of all jobs and females held 45.5 percent of all jobs countywide in 2017.
- Male-dominated industries included mining (91.8 percent), construction (84.1 percent) and transportation and warehousing (76.5 percent).
- Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (80.8 percent), educational services (72.3 percent) and finance and insurance (68.7 percent).
(Source: The Local Employment Dynamics)
The total covered payroll in 2017 in Grant County was approximately $1.572 billion. The average annual wage was $40,071 or 64.6 percent of the state average of $62,073.
The top five Grant County industries in 2017 in terms of payrolls were:
|Sector||Payroll||Share of payrolls|
|1. Local government||$353,248,788||22.5%|
|2. Agriculture, forestry and fishing||$291,599,048||18.6%|
|4. Health services||$102,241,270||6.5%|
|5. Retail trade||$99,087,762||6.3%|
|All other industries||$464,692,443||29.6%|
|Total covered payrolls||$1,571,609,263||100%|
As shown in the table above, QCEW data showed that Grant County’s workers received $1.572 billion in wages in 2017. Over 70 percent of this wage income was earned in five, two-digit NAICS industries or sectors (i.e., local government, agriculture, manufacturing, private health services and retail trade). Local government was the largest provider of wage income/payroll in the county in 2017, supplying 22.5 percent of total earned wage income and accounting for 17.2 percent of all jobs (see “Industry employment” section). Agriculture, forestry and fishing ranked second in 2017 in terms of share of total covered payroll, providing 18.6 percent of all wages earned in Grant County - where the lion’s share of wages were earned in the agricultural industry (versus forestry and fishing). In fact, agriculture provided more jobs in 2017 than any other Grant County sector (i.e., 10,240 jobs or 26.1 percent of all covered employment). The disparity in percentages between wages and employment is because there is a relatively high proportion of seasonal jobs in the agricultural sector.
Average annual covered wages in Grant County during 2017 were highest in information ($55,276), construction ($54,152) and manufacturing ($53,488). Conversely, average annual wages were lowest in accommodation and food services ($17,195), private educational services ($19,298) and arts, entertainment and recreation ($22,694).
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, Grant County inflation-adjusted per capita personal income was $38,308, less than the state ($57,896) and the nation ($51,640).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income in Grant County was $52,382 in the period 2013 through 2017. The county’s median was less than the state ($66,174) and the nation ($57,652).
In the period 2013 through 2017, 14.7 percent of the county’s population was living below the poverty level, higher than the state at 11.0 percent and the nation at 12.3 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts. The state and national rates are not directly comparable to the county rate because they each use different data sources.
(Source: Employment Security Department; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey)
Grant County’s population in 2017 was 95,158. The population grew 6.8 percent from April 1, 2010 through July 1, 2017, slower than the state’s 10.1 percent growth rate during this timeframe.
Moses Lake is the largest city in the county with an estimated population in 2018 of 23,660 residents. Ephrata is the next largest city with 8,130 residents.
|Grant County||Washington state|
|Percent change, 2010 to 2017||6.8%||10.1%|
Age, gender and ethnicity
Individuals under 18 years of age comprise 29.7 percent of Grant County’s population, which is greater than the 22.2 percent proportion across Washington state as of July 2017. People under 5 years of age comprised 8.0 percent of the county population compared to 6.2 percent for the state.
Females made up 49.3 percent of the population compared to 50.0 percent in the state.
Hispanics or Latinos made up 41.0 percent of the local population, considerably higher than the 12.7 percent statewide.
|Grant County||Washington state|
|Population by age, 2017|
|Under 5 years old||8.0%||6.2%|
|Under 18 years old||29.7%||22.2%|
|65 years and older||13.5%||15.1%|
|American Indian, Alaskan Native||2.2%||1.9%|
|Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander||0.2%||0.8%|
|Two or more races||2.4%||4.7%|
|Hispanic or Latino, any race||41.0%||12.7%|
|White alone, not Hispanic or Latino||53.9%||68.7%|
According to the American Community Survey (ACS), during the period 2013 through 2017, 75.3 percent of Grant County’s adults age 25 and older graduated from high school versus Washington’s 90.8 percent and 87.3 percent across the U.S.A.
Only 16.7 percent of county residents age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 34.5 percent in Washington state and 30.9 percent nationwide.
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)
- County data tables
- Census Bureau Profile
- Grant County Economic Development Council
- Grant County home page
- Grant County on ChooseWashington.com
- Grant County on ofm.wa.gov
- Grant County History
- Grant County Trends
- Self Sufficiency Calculator for Washington State
- Census Bureau QuickFacts
- Port of Ephrata
- Port of Mattawa
- Port of Moses Lake
- Port of Quincy
- Port of Royal Slope
- Washington Ports
- Workforce Development Areas and WorkSource Office Directory