Lincoln County profile

Washington state map with Lincoln county highlightedby Doug Tweedy, regional labor economist - updated September 2017

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. The entire northern boundary of the county is a federal Indian reservation and the county seat is in Davenport. Lincoln County is the eighth largest in the state, comprising 2,317 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 2017 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 will be impacted. Livestock production is also an important component of Lincoln county agriculture. A new meat packing plant in Odessa has added diversity to agriculture income.

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

Local economy

Original settlers came to the area seeking gold and those who settled in the area grew 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, but has slightly declined since then.

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Geographic facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

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

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The Lincoln County goods-producing sector remained unchanged in 2017. Increases in agricultural wealth have spurred construction of storage facilities and warehouses.

The service-providing industry has seen decreases. Losses have come from trade and financial employment. 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 2016. But, 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 counties 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.

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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.

Through the first six months of 2017 the average civilian labor force was 4,936 which compares to 4,871 for the same period in 2016. Increases in the labor force reverse a trend from 2010, of workers migrating out of the county. Good news for county employers. The county unemployment rate in the first half of 2017 averaged 5.3 percent, which is a decrease from the first half of 2016 (6.2 percent).

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

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Lincoln County nonfarm employment averaged 2,612 in the first half of 2017 compared to 2,568 for the same period in 2016.

  • Goods-producing employment averaged 235 in the first half of 2017. A slight increase (17) from 2016.
  • Service-providing employment averaged 2,377 in 2017 compared to the 2016 average of 2,350. A majority of the increase came in Information and financial industries.
  • Government employment averaged 1,302 in 2017, down slightly from the 2016 average employment of 1,318.

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:

The largest jobholder group in Lincoln County in 2016 was the 55+ year-olds with 31.3 percent of the workforce. They were closely followed by 45-54 year-olds with 21.0 percent of the workforce.

In 2016, 51.0 percent of all industry jobs were held by men and 49.0 percent were held by women. Industry differences are discussed below:

  • Male-dominated industries included agriculture (81.0 percent), construction (87.7 percent), transportation and warehousing (77.9 percent), administrative and waste management (78.3 percent) and wholesale trade (73.0 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included accommodation and food service (80.2 percent), healthcare and social assistance (76.3 percent), professional, scientific and technical services (81.2 percent), finance and insurance (77.8 percent) and educational services (65.3 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 2,768 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll of $97.1 million.

The county annual average wage was $35,076 in 2016, which is well below the state’s average annual wage of $59,073. In 2016, Lincoln County ranked 35th of 39 counties in the state for average annual wages.

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 the per capita income was $44,958, which was well below the state’s per capita income of $51,898 and the nation’s per capita income of $48,112.

Median household income over the period 2011 to 2015 was $46,069, well below the state’s $61,062.

Over the period 2011 to 2015, 14.0 percent of the population was living below the poverty level in Lincoln County. This compares to 12.2 percent of the state.

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(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Lincoln County’s population was 10,570 in 2010. The estimated population in 2016 of 10,350 was a drop of -2.1 percent. However, we do expect this trend of population decreases to slow as jobs increase.

The largest city in Lincoln County is Davenport with a population of 1,690 in 2016. Many small communities have experienced no growth or declines in the populations over the last decade.

Population facts

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Lincoln County Washington state
 Population 2016 10,350  7,288,000 
 Population 2010 10,570  6,724,540 
 Percent change, 2010 to 2016 -2.1%  8.4% 

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Lincoln County, as a percent, had a much older age demographic than the state or nation in 2016.

  • Lincoln County’s population age 65 and older was 25.0 percent in 2016 compared to the state’s 14.8 percent.
  • The youngest age group, under 5 years, was 4.9 percent in 2016 compared to the state’s 6.2 percent.

Males and females were almost exactly split 50.0/49.4.

Within Lincoln County, there is less diversity than the state. White persons who are not of Hispanic descent made up 94.3 percent of the county’s population compared to 80.0 percent of the state’s population.


(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Lincoln County Washington state
 Population by age, 2016
Under 5 years old 4.9%  6.2% 
Under 18 years old 21.4%  22.4% 
65 years and older 25.0%  14.8% 
 Females, 2016 49.4%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2016
White 94.3%  80.0% 
Black 0.5%  4.1% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 2.0%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 0.7%  9.4% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 3.3%  12.4% 

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Over the period 2011 to 2015, 91.3 percent of individuals age 25 and older were high school graduates. This figure is higher than that of Washington State (90.4 percent).

Over the same period, fewer Lincoln County residents 25 and older have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher (20.6 percent), compared to the state (32.9 percent).

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Useful links

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