Snohomish County profile
by Anneliese Vance-Sherman, Ph.D., regional labor economist - updated January 2020
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 385.73 people per square mile in 2018.
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 58,500 jobs (20.2 percent of total Snohomish County nonfarm employment) in 2018 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 38,800 jobs in 2018. 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 (39,900), educational and health services (35,500), retail trade (35,000), professional and business services (28,500), leisure and hospitality (26,500), and construction (24,200).
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.
|Snohomish County||Rank in state|
|Land area, 2010 (square miles)||2,087.3||13|
|Persons per square mile, 2017||392.23||7|
(Source: Washington State Office of Financial Management)
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, dropping again in 2017 to 0 percent (following drops in manufacturing employment) and up slightly to 1 percent in 2018. Unemployment rates have been falling since 2010, and have consistently remained below the rates reported for the state. In 2018, the average unemployment rate was 3.8 percent, and the most recent monthly estimates at the end of 2019 dipped below 3 percent, despite relatively low employment growth within the county. The low and declining unemployment rates largely reflect continuing employment growth in neighboring King County.
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 to 2012, and stabilized around 43,000 from 2012 to 2016. Employment levels dropped in 2017 and stabilized around 38,000.
The past few years have been characterized by expansion in most major industry groups except manufacturing, however the rate of expansion has been tapering off. From 2017 to 2018, Snohomish County employers collectively added 2,900 jobs or 1.0 percent. On a percentage basis, the highest year-over-year growth in both nominal and relative measures came from construction (1,500 jobs or 6.6 percent).
Snohomish County’s 2018 labor force averaged 430,470, with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent. Within this estimate, 414,289 county residents were counted among the employed and 16,181 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, largely a result of high job growth in neighboring King County. Readings from the final couple months of 2019 reached below 3 percent.
(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 290,000 nonfarm jobs in 2018, up from an estimated 287,100 in 2017. Over the year, total employment increased an average 1.0 percent. Washington state as a whole experienced the addition of 82,900 jobs over the same time period, an increase of 2.5 percent.
- Goods-producing industries supported an average of 82,700 jobs in 2018, up from 81,400 in 2017. Net growth was attributable to hiring in construction, despite a small drop in total manufacturing employment.
- Snohomish County goods-producing industries generally fall within two industries: manufacturing and construction. Manufacturing dipped during the recession and recovered employment quickly (relative to other sectors), however this industries employment growth slowed later in the recovery, and has begun to decline again.
- Construction suffered the greatest job losses in the county, but has expanded employment every year since 2011. Expect the rate of hiring to slow but continue to grow 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 207,300 jobs in 2018, up from 205,600 in 2017. Five major service-providing industry categories expanded employment over the year and three shed jobs.
- 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 local information 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 have reached employment levels that exceed their respective pre-recession peaks.
- Government employment averaged 39,900 jobs in 2018. This is down from an estimated 40,000 in 2017.
(Source: Employment Security Department)
For historical industry employment data, contact an economist.
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.
Snohomish County highlights:
In 2018, Snohomish County’s labor force 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 2018, 53.4 percent of all jobs were held by men, while 46.6 percent were held by women.
- Industries with male-dominant workforces included mining (83.2 percent), construction (78.6 percent), transportation and warehousing (74.4 percent) and manufacturing (74.0 percent).
- Female-dominated industries included healthcare and social assistance (78.7 percent), educational services (74.1 percent) and finance and insurance (65.7 percent).
(Source: The Local Employment Dynamics)
In 2018, Snohomish County averaged 287,488 jobs covered by unemployment insurance, with a total payroll in excess of $17.7 billion.
The average annual wage in Snohomish County was $61,652 for all industries in 2018. This is slightly lower than the statewide average wage of $66,195, but significantly higher than the statewide average when King County is excluded ($50,525). The average wage in Snohomish County is also higher than the national average ($57,265).
The median hourly wage was $26.44 in 2018, compared to a statewide median wage of $25.98 per hour.
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 2018, the per capita personal income in Snohomish County was $55,888, less than Washington state ($62,026) but higher than the nation as a whole ($54,446). Within Washington state, Snohomish County ranked fourth for per capita income.
According to the American Community Survey, the median household income in Snohomish County was $87,440 in 2018. Snohomish County’s median was higher than both the state ($74,073) and the nation ($61,937).
In 2018, 7.5 percent of the resident population in Snohomish County was estimated to be living below the poverty level. Statewide and national poverty levels were higher (10.3 and 13.1 percent respectively).
In Snohomish County, 9.0 percent of all children under age 18 were reported as living below the poverty level in 2018.
(Source: Employment Security Department; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey)
With an estimated 818,700 residents in 2019, 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. In 2019, Snohomish County welcomed an estimated 13,580 new residents.
The largest city in Snohomish County is Everett (111,800 residents in 2019). Other large cities include Marysville, Edmonds and Lynnwood.
|Snohomish County||Washington state|
|Percent change, 2009 to 2019||16.0%||13.1%|
(Source: Washington State Office of Financial Management)
Age, gender and ethnicity
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 similar proportion of young people under age 18 compared to the state and nation, and a much 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 nation, and the population aged 64 and above is under-represented in Snohomish County relative to the state.
The racial and ethnic makeup of Snohomish County shows a relative under-representation of Black or African American (3.7 percent) and Hispanic or Latino residents (10.4 percent) compared to the state, and a higher representation of Asian residents (12.3 percent compared to 10.1 percent statewide).
|Snohomish County||Washington state|
|Population by age, 2018|
|Under 5 years old||6.4%||6.1%|
|Under 18 years old||22.6%||22.1%|
|65 years and older||13.5%||15.4%|
|American Indian, Alaskan Native||1.6%||1.9%|
|Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander||12.3%||10.1%|
|Hispanic or Latino, any race||10.4%||12.9%|
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; 92.2 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 under 32 percent of Snohomish County residents age 25 and up had completed bachelor degrees or higher, compared to 35.3 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.
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts)
- County data tables
- Census Bureau Profile
- Snohomish County home page
- Snohomish County on ofm.wa.gov
- Snohomish County on ChooseWashington.com
- Snohomish County History
- Workforce Snohomish
- Economic Alliance Snohomish County
- Port of Edmonds
- Port of Everett
- Self Sufficiency Calculator for Washington State
- Puget Sound Regional Council
- Census Bureau QuickFacts
- Washington Ports
- WorkSource Snohomish County