LONG BEACH — With people continuing to leave its northern half, Pacific County was one of two counties in Washington state to lose population between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data released Wednesday.

The county’s population in 2010 was 20,920, down from the 20,984 people counted in 2000, a drop of about three-tenths of 1 percent.

Population trends differ markedly around the county. The Peninsula, at 52 square miles slightly larger in physical size than the city of San Francisco, had a year-round population of 9,107 in 2010, an increase of 3.2 percent since 2000. As a whole, south county grew 4.5 percent in the past decade, while north county lost 5.5 percent of its population.

North county now has fewer people than it did 20 years ago, while south county has grown by nearly 24 percent.

Agriculture-based Garfield County in far southeastern Washington was the only other of the state’s 39 counties to experience a slight drop in population. Overall, the state’s population grew 14.1 percent during the decade.

Vacant houses

The county as a whole and its southern half in particular would have far more people if homes were occupied year-round. In both Long Beach and Ocean Park for example, the census found more housing units vacant than occupied.

In the wake of the building boom of the 2000s, the number of dwellings in the county increased to 15,547 in 2010, a gain of 11.1 percent since 2000. However, out of a total of 9,236 housing units on the Peninsula, 4,668 or 50.5 percent were vacant as of April 1, 2010. In both Ocean Park and Long Beach, almost 54 percent of housing units were vacant.  

This reflects a large number of unsold houses, but also the county’s traditionally high proportion of vacation homes that are occupied only now and then. In past censuses, about 80 percent of the county’s vacant housing stock was classified as being for seasonal, recreational or occasional use. (A housing unit can be a house, apartment, condo, mobile home or even a rented room, so long as it is intended as separate living quarters.)

The county’s 39 percent vacancy rate in 2010 compares to 35 percent in 2000. Statewide, only San Juan County, also part-time home to many seasonal residents, had a higher vacancy rate in 2010 at 43 percent.

There are a total of 6,311 housing units in the remainder of the county off the Peninsula, of which 1,380 or 21.9 percent were vacant in April 2010.

The county’s occupied dwellings averaged 2.2 people in each. On the Peninsula, there are enough housing units to provide a separate living place for every individual permanent resident — man, woman and child.

 

Ages

The 2010 census marked a continuing trend of decline in Pacific County’s population of children both in percentage terms and absolute numbers.

There were 3,748 residents age 17 and younger in the county last year, or about 17.9 percent of the population. In 2000, there were 4,500 people in that age group, or 21.4 percent. And in 1990, there were 4,516, who comprised 23.9 percent of the populace. 

Pacific County has the state’s fourth smallest proportion of children. Jefferson County on the Olympic Peninsula has the smallest percentage of kids (14.9 percent), followed by Whitman (15.1 percent), San Juan (15.8), Pacific (17.9), coastal county Clallam (18.2) and Wahkiakum (18.5).

Race

Pacific County residents who define themselves as white remain in the overwhelming majority, with 87.4 percent of the total population. This compares with 88 percent in 2000 and 91.4 percent in 1990. The number of white people declined to 18,286 in 2010 from 18,462 in 2000. There were 17,250 in 1990.

There was a large increase in the number of Hispanic people — who can be white or any other race. They totaled 1,677 in 2010, up nearly 60 percent from 2000 when they totaled 1,052. They made up 8 percent of the county’s population in 2010, up from 5 percent in 2000, and 2.3 percent in 1990, when only 433 people described themselves as Hispanic. (Ethnicity comparisons are not completely precise, due to shifting U.S. Census Bureau definitions.)

People who said they are two or more races totaled 599 in 2010, up from 503 in 2000.

The next largest ethnic group in the county is comprised of American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, who altogether total 441, or 2.1 percent. This number continues a long decline, from 467 in 2000 and 519 in 1990.

There were 424 people with Asian backgrounds in the county last year, compared to 480 in 2000. People who said they are black or African-American totaled 46 in 2010, up from 42 in 2000, but down from 57 in 1990.

The Peninsula and Willapa Valley each were about 93 percent white in 2010, the large Raymond-South Bend census subdivision was about 79.5 percent, and the subdivision that includes both Naselle and Chinook was 89.5 percent.

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