Economic Vitality

Natural resource-based industries have a long-standing history in the region and their existence is important to residents of the area as they provide jobs, income, a sense of identity, and cultural heritage. The Economic Vitality Vital Sign tells us how well natural resource industries (aquaculture, agriculture, fishing, forestry, and recreation and tourism) are doing economically over time, as well as compared to non-natural resource industries. Many communities in Puget Sound depend on healthy, sustainable, natural resource-based industries for job stability and satisfaction, and connection to nature and place.

Fishing is an important natural resource industry in Puget Sound.

Key Vital Sign Messages

Based on data through 2019 for indicators of natural resource industry employment, percent employment, and output (2019 is the latest year of availability of some critical data needed to update these indicators):

  • The region is making progress with overall growth in natural resource industries. This is largely driven by growth in the recreation and tourism sector which represents almost 78% of natural resource employment and about 82% of natural resource wages.
  • Employment in natural resource industries increased by more than 35% from an estimated 75,596 jobs in 2005 to 102,371 jobs in 2019. At the same time, wages improved from approximately $1.7 billion in 2005 to over $2.7 billion in 2019 ($2019) – an increase of nearly 61%.
  • Wages in fishing and timber have declined in real terms, while aquaculture, agriculture, and recreation each have increased by approximately 4 to 5% per year since 2005.
  • Roughly 3% of Puget Sound jobs are in natural resource industries. However, people working in these jobs receive just 1.4% of total wages in Puget Sound. This implies that natural resource industry jobs are lower paying relative to other sectors.
  • The percentage of natural resource industry employment and wages compared to all employment and wages varies across counties from approximately 1 to 14%. Natural resource industries tend to account for a higher percentage of wage and employment in rural counties with more recreational opportunities, such as San Juan, Clallam, Jefferson, and Whatcom Counties.
  • GDP in tourism and recreation has also increased consistently each year beginning in 2010. In 2010, this indicator was $3.2 billion, increasing to $5.7 billion in 2019 ($2019) – a growth of 76% during a period where inflation only increased 15%.
  • Combined product value, or prices paid to producers for unprocessed timber, fish, shellfish, crops, and livestock from 2005 through 2019 averaged about $1.7 billion ($2019) annually. Since 2005, the combined value of natural resource industry products has increased and decreased over the years.
  • Commercial fishing value (finfish and shellfish) declined significantly from $114 million in 2017 to about $69 million in 2019 ($2019). This was driven by a decrease in finfish numbers resulting in part from low coho returns and resulting fishery closures.

While economics is a component of all the Vital Signs to varying degrees (through funding, costs, benefits, and incentives), the indicators for the Economic Vitality Vital Sign are linked to other Vital Signs in more specific ways. For example,

  • Employment in resource-based industries contributes to a Sense of Place where residents’ strong connections to nature partly stem from cultural and outdoor activities, including fishing, shellfish gathering, and boating.
  • Sustainable natural resource industries can contribute to, and also depend on, the health of Thriving Species and Food Webs, or alternately, can have a negative impact related to over-harvesting or poor practices.

Background Documents

Other Resources

Contributing Partners