Lincoln County profile

Washington state map with Lincoln county highlightedby Doug Tweedy, regional labor economist - updated October 2019

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


Regional context

Lincoln County is a rural county at the northern edge of the Palouse wheat-growing region. The economy is dominated by wheat production. The entire northern boundary of the county is a federal Indian reservation and the county seat is in Davenport. The county is the seventh largest in the state, comprising 2,310 square miles.

Next to Whitman County, Lincoln County grows the most wheat in Washington State. Annual wheat production can be over 25 million bushels. One point two million acres of the county’s 1.5 million-acre area is in farmland, and one in every three of those acres is planted in wheat. Lincoln County farmers are very efficient, and 2019 production was good. However, wheat prices did drop and have farmers worried about the future. With the drop in wheat prices, the regional economy and local retail sales have been impacted. Livestock production is also an important component of Lincoln County agriculture. A meat packing plant in Odessa has added diversity to agriculture income.

Tourism activities have increased over the last decade as Grand Coulee Dam and the Lake Roosevelt recreation area have become more developed.

Local economy

Original settlers came to the area seeking gold and those who settled in the area raised livestock. With the advent of the first railroad in 1881, overall agriculture production focused on wheat. Success in wheat farming eventually drove migration, settlement and development.

Growth in total nonfarm employment has been relatively slow over the last 12 years, but had managed to minimize losses during the last recession. Employment peaked in 2008, and has declined since then.

Geographic facts

Lincoln County Rank in state
 Land area, 2010 (square miles) 2,310.49 
 People per square mile, 2010 4.6  37 

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

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Schools and government employment constitutes almost half of all jobs in the county. In the short term, ongoing budgetary problems are expected to continue to limit overall expansion of government. Lincoln County retail sales improved in 2019. However, even with the increase in total retail sales, overall sales tend to be lower relative to the per capita state average. This reflects the large number of purchases occurring in neighboring Spokane County as county residents travel to shop.

Slow population growth over the last decade limits overall economic growth. This is especially true in many small communities where support for services and the replacement of existing public infrastructure are hampered by a declining population. Overall, the population for the county tends to grow much slower and is older than is typical for the state and nation.

However, population should increase in 2020. The Amazon development in Spokane County is close to the border with Lincoln County and will provide the county new jobs and revenue as Amazon employees discover the low cost of land and housing available in Lincoln County.

Labor force and unemployment

Current labor force and unemployment statistics are available on the Labor area summaries page on ESD’s labor market information website.

Through the first nine months of 2019, the average civilian labor force was 5,139 which compares to 5,059 for the same period in 2018. Increases in the labor force reverse a trend ending in 2016, of workers migrating out of the county. Good news for county employers. The county unemployment rate in the first nine months of 2019 averaged 5.2 percent, which is an increase from the first nine months of 2018 (4.9 percent).

The unemployment rate fluctuates throughout the year, reflecting seasonal employment, with lows in the summer and highs in the winter.

Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA

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Industry employment

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

Lincoln County nonfarm employment averaged 2,540 in the first nine months of 2019 compared to 2,679 for the same period in 2018.

  • Goods-producing employment averaged 340 in the first nine months of 2019. No change from 2018.
  • Service-providing employment averaged 2,200 in 2019 compared to the 2018 average of 2,339 in the same months. A majority of the job decrease came in government.
  • Government employment averaged 1,210 in 2019, a decrease from the 2018 average employment of 1,280 in the same months.

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.

Lincoln County highlights:

The largest job holder group in Lincoln County in 2018 was the 55+ year-olds with 32.1 percent of the workforce. In 2018, 51.3 percent of all industry jobs were held by men and 48.6 percent were held by women. Industry differences are discussed below:

  • Male-dominated industries included agriculture (82.8 percent), construction (85.8 percent), transportation and warehousing (76.5 percent), administrative and waste management (64.8 percent) and wholesale trade (73.6 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included professional, scientific and technical services (84.9 percent), finance and insurance (77.5 percent), healthcare and social assistance (76.6 percent), accommodation and food services (75.2 percent) and educational services (65.4 percent).

Source: The Local Employment Dynamics

Wages and income

In 2018, there were 2,862 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of $109.6 million.

The county annual average wage was $38,297 in 2018, which is well below the state’s average annual wage of $66,195. In 2018, Lincoln County ranked 33rd of 39 counties in the state for average annual wages.

Source:  Employment Security Department/LMEA; Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts

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 income was $43,145, which was well below the state’s per capita income of $57,896 and the nation’s per capita income of $51,640.

Median household income over the period 2013 to 2017 was $49,460, well below the state’s $66,174.

Over the period 2013 to 2017, 12.6 percent of the population was living below the poverty level in Lincoln County. This compares to 10.3 percent of the state.

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

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Lincoln County’s population was 10,570 in 2010. The estimated population in 2018 of 10,740 is a slight increase. However, we do expect population to increase substantially in 2020 along with jobs because of the Amazon development.

The largest city in Lincoln County is Davenport with a population of 1,715 in 2018. Many small communities have experienced no growth or declines in the populations over the last decade.

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Population facts

Lincoln County Washington state
 Population 2018 10,740  7,535,591 
 Population 2010 10,570  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2018 1.6%  12.1% 

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Age, gender and ethnicity

Lincoln County, as a percent, had a much older age demographic than the state or nation in 2018.

  • Lincoln County’s population age 65 and older was 25.6 percent in 2018 compared to the state’s 15.4 percent and the nation’s 16.0 percent.
  • The youngest age group, under 5 years, was 5.2 percent in 2018 compared to the state’s 6.1 percent.

Within Lincoln County, there is less diversity than the state. White individuals who are not of Hispanic descent made up 94.0 percent of the county’s population compared to 78.9 percent of the state’s population.


Lincoln County Washington state
 Population by age, 2018
Under 5 years old 5.2%  6.1% 
Under 18 years old 21.7%  22.1% 
65 years and older 25.6%  15.4% 
 Females, 2018 48.9%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2018
White 94.0%  78.9% 
Black 0.6%  4.3% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.0%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 0.7%  10.1% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.5%  12.9% 

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Educational attainment

Over the period 2013 to 2017, 91.1 percent of individuals age 25 and older were high school graduates. This figure is higher than that of Washington state (90.8 percent) and the nation (87.2 percent).

Over the same period, fewer Lincoln County residents 25 and older have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher (22.9 percent), compared to the state (34.5 percent) and the nation (30.9 percent).

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)


Useful links

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