Snohomish County profile

Washington state map with Snohomish county highlightedby Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Ph.D., regional labor economist - updated October 2017

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

Overview

Regional context

Snohomish County is situated between northern Puget Sound to the west and the crest line of the North Cascade Range to the east. It shares its northern border with rural Skagit County and borders King County to the south. Snohomish County is separated from Camano Island (part of Island County) by Davis Slough. The highest point in Snohomish County is Granite Peak (10,541 feet).

Due to its proximity to and shared labor market with King County, Snohomish County is incorporated into the Seattle - Bellevue - Everett Metropolitan Division and the Seattle - Tacoma - Bellevue Metropolitan Statistical Area, as designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and other government agencies.

The geographic distribution of population, economic activity and land use in Snohomish County is diverse, with a mix of rural and urban zones. For the most part, population centers in the county are oriented south in proximity to the border with King County and west along Interstate 5. By contrast, north and east Snohomish County are characterized by smaller town and cities, farmland and reservations.

The county ranks 13th statewide in terms of total land area (2,087.3 square miles) and is the 7th most densely populated county in Washington, with 378.20 people per square mile in 2017.

Local economy

Snohomish County has been and continues to be home to a number of Native American tribes. Early economic history of the county is characterized by an abundance of natural resources in a diverse ecological region.

European settlement of Puget Sound, including what is now Snohomish County, followed Captain George Vancouver’s claim of much of western Washington for Great Britain in 1792. Snohomish County was carved out of Island County in 1861 and the late 19th century saw the establishment of several settlements in western Snohomish County. The Great Northern Railway reached the newly-established city of Everett, bringing an economic boom to the area. Snohomish County’s early industrial economy thus continued to be based on the availability of abundant natural resources - primarily timber and farming.

Following World War II, Snohomish County’s economic growth expanded through the establishment of suburban cities oriented toward Seattle in the southwestern part of the county.

Home-grown multinational corporation, Boeing, traces its roots to the Seattle metropolitan area and continues to play a prominent role in Snohomish County’s economic make up. In the late 1960s, Boeing established its 747 manufacturing plant at Paine Field near Everett. The later development of other high technology industries in Snohomish County brought population increases and a shift from an economy based on logging and agriculture to one rooted in manufacturing and an expanding service sector.

Manufacturing continues to be a major economic driver in Snohomish County. About 63,000 jobs (22.0 percent of total Snohomish County nonfarm employment) in 2016 were in manufacturing industries. This is proportionally higher than any other county in Washington and above the national average. Although Snohomish County manufacturing is made up of many types of industries, aerospace products and parts manufacturing makes up the largest portion of employment. Aerospace manufacturers supplied 43,400 jobs in 2016. The manufacturing base, coupled with proximity to a major urban center, provides the foundation for a diverse local economy.

Other major industry sectors employing more than 20,000 included government (39,600), retail trade (34,800), educational and health services (33,700), professional and business services (26,700), leisure and hospitality (26,000), and construction (21,500).

Snohomish County began to feel the effects of the recent recession in mid-2008. The lowest employment levels were recorded in 2010 – several months after the recession had been officially declared over. Since 2010, all private-sector industry groups have seen overall increases in employment and the local unemployment rate has been dropping.

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Geographic facts

(Source: Washington State Office of Financial Management)

Snohomish County Rank in state
 Land area, 2010 (square miles) 2,087.3  13 
 Persons per square mile, 2017 378.20 

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Outlook

Snohomish County experienced relative job losses that exceeded those of the state or the nation in 2009 and 2010. It has also experienced above average job creation by comparison during the first couple years of economic recovery (2011 and 2012). All private sector industry groups have reported net employment growth since the recession (with recovery starting in 2010 for most industries). Generally speaking, the rate of employment growth was highest at the start of the recovery. Total nonfarm employment expanded by 3.2 percent from 2010 to 2011 and by another 4.1 percent in 2012. As the recovery continued, Snohomish County employment dipped down into the 1 percent per year range, lower than the state or nation. In 2015 and 2016, Snohomish County’s rate of job growth once again jumped up over 2 percent. As of August 2017, employment levels are below levels observed 12 months earlier. Recent declines in the manufacturing workforce are taking their toll.  Unemployment rates have been falling since 2010, but have begun to creep up in recent months in tandem with payroll employment data. In August 2017, the preliminary not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reported for Snohomish County was 4.3 percent.

The primary driver of Snohomish County’s early recovery was the manufacturing sector, specifically the aerospace products and parts manufacturing industry. Employment in aerospace expanded rapidly from 2010 and 2012, peaked in 2013 and has been slowly declining from 2013 to August 2016. It is worth noting that, despite recent declines, jobs in manufacturing still accounted for 22 percent of total nonfarm employment in 2016—a higher percentage than had been observed in the years leading up to the Great Recession.

The tail end of the recovery period has been characterized by expansion in all major industry groups except manufacturing. From 2015 to 2016, Snohomish County employers collectively added 6,300 jobs or 2.3 percent. On a percentage basis, the highest year-over-year growth came from construction (9.7 percent).

Year-over-year employment growth slowed in the first months of 2017 and reversed direction in July and August. Declines were fueled by job losses in the manufacturing sector, but these have largely been offset by growth in most other industries. Moving forward, expect in the short term to see reductions in manufacturing employment mostly offset by the addition of construction and service-sector employment fueled by a growing resident population that is increasingly oriented toward Seattle and King County. In a slightly longer term view, expect manufacturing employment to pick up again as the Boeing Company begins to produce the 777X in its Everett facility

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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.

Snohomish County’s 2016 labor force averaged 412,178, with an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. Within this estimate, 394,217 county residents were counted among the employed and 17,961 were counted among the unemployed.

During the recent period of recession and recovery, peak unemployment rates were reached in early 2010, when rates reached 11.2 percent. The average unemployment rate for 2010 was 10.7 percent. Since 2010, the unemployment rate has been on a consistent downward trend through 2016. In mid-2017, the unemployment rate began to climb slightly, in tandem with recent drops in payroll employment. In August 2017, the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent.

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Industry employment

(Source: Employment Security Department)

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

Although the recession technically ended in June 2009, the employment situation did not begin to turn around until well into the recovery period. The lowest employment levels during this period were reached in 2010. Some industries that were particularly hard hit include construction and financial activities.

Snohomish County averaged 286,900 nonfarm jobs in 2016, up from an estimated 280,600 in 2015. Over the year, total employment increased an average 2.3 percent. Washington state as a whole experienced the addition of 96,400 jobs over the same time period, an increase of 3.1 percent.

  • Goods-producing industries supported an average of 84,500 jobs in 2016, up from 83,200 in 2015. Net growth was entirely attributable to hiring in construction.
    • Snohomish County goods-producing industries generally fall within two industries: manufacturing and construction. Manufacturing dipped and recovered employment quickly (relative to other sectors), however industry employment growth has slowed later into the recovery.
    • Construction suffered the greatest job losses in the county, but has grown every year since 2011. Expect the surge of hiring to continue over the next couple years as the market addresses pent up demand and as population continues to grow, largely in response to high job growth and a constrained housing market in neighboring King County.
  • Service-providing industries supported an average of 202,500 jobs in 2016, up from 197,400 in 2015. All major service-providing industry categories expanded employment over the year.
    • The service sector includes a broad range of industries, each responding differently to economic conditions.  Over the course of the recession and recovery, the greatest proportional service sector industry losses came from the financial activities sector and the greatest absolute losses came from retail. Educational and health services continued to grow over the course of the recession and recovery period.
    • At the broad industry level, all private sector service providing industries except wholesale trade have reached employment levels that exceed their respective pre-recession peaks.
    • Government employment averaged 39,600 jobs in 2016. This is up from an estimated 8,800 in 2015.

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:

In 2016, Snohomish County’s labor market was slightly older than that of the state. While the statewide workforce had proportionally more workers age 25 to 44, Snohomish County’s workforce was proportionally more represented among workers age 45 to 64. This is largely a reflection of industry employment patterns. Nearly 30 percent of the manufacturing workforce in Snohomish County is age 55 or older.

In 2016, 53.7 percent of all jobs were held by men, while 46.3 percent were held by women.

  • Industries with male-dominant workforces included mining (86.9 percent), construction (79.6 percent), transportation and warehousing (75.1 percent) and manufacturing (74.5 percent).
  • Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (78.3 percent), educational services (73.8 percent) and finance and insurance (66.1 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, Snohomish County averaged 283,093 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll in excess of $16.2 billion.

The average annual wage in Snohomish County was $57,456 for all industries in 2016.

The median hourly wage was $25.03 in 2016, compared to a statewide median wage of $23.91 per hour.

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 personal income in Snohomish County was $47,421, less than both the state ($51,898) and the nation ($48,112). Within Washington state, Snohomish County ranked sixth for per capita income.

According to the American Community Survey, the median household income was $76,251 in 2015. Snohomish County’s median was higher than both the state ($64,129) and the nation ($55,775).

In 2015, 9.2 percent of the resident population in Snohomish County was estimated to be living below the poverty level. Statewide and national poverty levels were higher (12.2 and 14.7 percent respectively).

Childhood poverty levels tend to exceed all ages’ averages. In Snohomish County, 12.0 percent of all children under age 18 were reported as living below the poverty level in 2015.

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Population

(Source: Washington State Office of Financial Management)

With an estimated 789,400 residents in 2017, Snohomish County has the third highest county population in Washington. Only King and Pierce counties have higher resident populations.

Over the past couple decades, Snohomish County’s population growth rate has exceeded those of the state and the nation and this higher-than-average population growth trend is projected to continue.

Migration trends tend to be linked closely with economic cycles. During the recent recession and recovery period, Snohomish County’s usual migration-related increase fell below the relatively constant rate of natural increase, and reached the lowest levels observed since the early 1970s. Since 2015, the rate of growth has been in the 2 percent range every year. In 2017, Snohomish County welcomed an estimated 16,540 new residents or 2.1 percent.

The largest city in Snohomish County is Everett (109,800 residents in 2017). Other large cities include Marysville, Edmonds and Lynnwood.


Population facts

(Source: Washington State Office of Financial Management)

Snohomish County Washington state
 Population 2017 789,400  7,218,759 
 Population 2007 689,314  6,525,093 
 Percent change, 2007 to 2017 14.5%  13.6% 

Age, gender and ethnicity

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

The age distribution of Snohomish County residents compared to the state as a whole reveals the suburban and industrial nature of the county. It suggests that people move to Snohomish County to work and raise their families.

Snohomish County has a slightly larger proportion of young people under age 18 than the state and a lower proportion of teenagers and adults between ages 15 and 29. The population between age 30 and 64 proportionally exceeds that of the state and the population aged 64 and above is under-represented in Snohomish County.

The racial and ethnic makeup of Snohomish County shows a relative under-representation of Black (2.6 percent) and Hispanic residents (10.2 percent) compared to the state and a higher representation of Asian residents (10.0 percent compared to 8.0 percent statewide).


Demographics

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Snohomish County Washington state
 Population by age, 2016
Under 5 years old 6.3%  6.2% 
Under 18 years old 22.8%  22.4% 
65 years and older 12.8%  14.8% 
 Females, 2016 49.8%  50.0% 
 Race/ethnicity, 2016
White 79.2%  80.0% 
Black 3.3%  4.1% 
American Indian, Alaskan Native 1.6%  1.9% 
Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander 11.3%  9.4% 
Hispanic or Latino, any race 9.9%  12.4% 

Educational attainment

(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Compared to Washington state and the U.S. as a whole, Snohomish County residents age 25 and above are more likely to have graduated from high school; 92.0 percent of Snohomish County residents over age 25 had earned a high school degree. This is proportionally higher than the state and the nation.

There were proportionally fewer Snohomish County residents with four-year college degrees than statewide. Just over 29 percent of Snohomish County residents age 25 and up had completed bachelor degrees or higher, compared to just over 34 percent for the state. Snohomish County residents were more likely to have attended some colleges or to have earned their associate’s degree compared to the state and the nation.

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Useful links

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