Economic Basics

King County Economy

Population | Educational Attainment | Income & Cost of Living
Industries & Trade | Largest Employers in King County | Top Companies Headquartered in King County | Seattle-King County Companies on Fortune 500 | Top Trading Partners


king-county-pop.pngKing County, Washington is located in the northwest corner of the United States in the heart of the Puget Sound region. The region is the thirteenth largest metropolitan area in the country. King County is home to nearly 2.1 million people, living in 39 cities and unincorporated areas. King County has a varied topography from sea level to 6,270 feet. To the west is the Puget Sound and to the east are the Cascade Mountains. The City of Seattle is the King County seat and the Northwest’s largest city. Seattle is 100 miles south of the Canadian border and 165 miles north of the Oregon border.

kc-households.pngKing County had an estimated 850,932 households in 2015. This number is forecasted to increase to more than 906,000 by the year 2020. The county currently has 18 cities with populations greater than 20,000.



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Educational Attainment

percent-bachelors-degree-or-higher.pngWelcome to Seattle, one of the most educated cities in the United States. Over 57% of Seattle’s adult residents have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, nearly twice the national average. An educated city means an educated workforce—a solid backbone for the innovative, knowledge-based industries that drive Seattle’s economy. Eleven colleges and universities call King County home, including University of Washington, home of the nation’s top medical school and recipient of more federal research funds than any other public university in the United States. King County also boasts high educational attainment, with 47% of residents over 25 having received a Bachelor's degree or higher.

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Income & Cost of Living




Roughly 28% of King County residents are in professional business/managerial positions. As a result, median household income in King County is well above the U.S. average. Cost of living is generally higher than the U.S. average, but it is in line with other metropolitan areas with similar income levels.

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Industries & Trade

pnw-port-us-eports.pngApproximately 8.7% of Washington State’s private sector jobs are linked to export manufacturing. Foreign investment accounts for another 3.7% of the state’s private-industry employment with foreign-controlled businesses employing over 91,000 Washington workers.

Seattle is the closest seaport in the United States to both Asia and Alaska. Its location makes the city a prime gateway for shipping, cruise passengers and tourists. In addition to Asia, many other countries are found among the list of Seattle’s top twenty trade partners. A recent study by the Brookings Institution ranks the Seattle metropolitan region 10th among the 100 largest US metropolitan areas with $24.16 billion in total exports produced for 2008.

The value of the state’s exported merchandise totaled approximately $53.4 billion in 2010, 19% of which went to the state’s largest market, China. Eighty-one percent of Washington’s exports come from the Seattle metro area (Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue).

About 70% of the port’s containerized cargo originates in or destined for regions or country outside the Pacific Northwest. Thus, while the state represents 2% of the nation’s population, its ports handle 7% of all U.S. exports and receive a 6% share of the nation’s imports.

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Largest Employers in King County

Employer Name # of Full-Time Employees in WA
The Boeing Co. 81,919
Microsoft Corp. 43,031
University of Washington 30,200 Inc. 24,700
King County Government 13,400
Starbucks Corp. 11,239
Swedish Health Services 10,758
City of Seattle 10,080
Costco Wholesale Corp. 9,264
Nordstrom 8,982
Group Health Cooperative 7,271

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Top Companies Headquartered in King County

Company Name
Alaska Airlines**
Costco Wholesale*
Expeditors International of Washington*
*Fortune 500 company

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Seattle-King County Companies on Fortune 500


Company Rank City Net Income
(in thousands)
Costco Wholesale 18 Issaquah 2,377,000
Microsoft 31 Redmond 4,620,000 29 Seattle 241,000
Starbucks 187 Seattle 2,068,100
Paccar 158 Bellevue 1,358,800
Nordstrom 224 Seattle 720,000
Weyerhaeuser 355 Federal Way 144,000
Expeditors International of Washington 413 Seattle 117,760
Expedia 458 Bellevue 398,000
Alaska Airlines 484 Seattle 605,000

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Top Trading Partners


Country $ in millions
China 20,690
Canada 9,291
Japan 7,364
U.A.E. 3,272
U.K. 2,951


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