The main industries in Watsonville are agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. Some of the largest companies headquartered in Watsonville are Driscoll's Strawberries, Martinelli's, California Giant, Monterey Mushrooms, Graniterock, Granite Construction, West Marine, Vendwize, and Fox Racing Shox.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.4 square miles (16.7 km²), of which, 6.3 square miles (16.4 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km2) of it (1.24%) is water.
The City of Watsonville has habitat areas that support the endangered species Santa Cruz Tarweed on the California coastal prairie ecosystem. Considerable population growth occurred since 1980, requiring preparation of a number of Environmental Impact Reports, with resultant development removing certain lands of the city from productive natural habitat.
Most of the coastal land adjacent to Watsonville is part of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary, a designation championed by former Congressman Leon Panetta. Heading away from the coast, the backdrop features the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains, making this town a little "hideout" from Silicon Valley.
The National Weather Service cooperative station at the Watsonville Waterworks reports cool, relatively wet winters and mild, dry summers. Fog and low overcast is common in the night and morning hours, especially in the summer when warmer air from inland areas mixes with the cool, moist air near Monterey Bay.
January, normally the coldest month, has an average maximum of 59.9°F and an average minimum of 38.5°F. September, normally the warmest month, has an average maximum of 73.2°F and an average minimum of 51.7°F. There are an average of 4.9 days annually with highs of 90°F (32°C) or higher and an average of 13.5 days annually with lows of 32°F (0°C) or lower. Cool nights are common in the summer, due to the influence of chilly Monterey Bay. The record high temperature was 106°F on October 2, 1980. The record low temperature was 12°F on December 22, 1990.
Average annual rainfall is 22.41 inches, with measurable precipitation falling on an average of 61 days each year. The wettest year was 1983 with 48.35 inches and the dryest year was 1976 with 10.66 inches. The most rainfall in one month was 15.99 inches in February 1998. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 5.93 inches on February 14, 2000. Although significant snowfall occurs several times a year on the higher mountains nearby, measurable snowfall is a rarity along Monterey Bay.
As of the census of 2000, there were 44,265 people, 11,381 households, and 8,865 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,969.4 people per square mile (2,691.5/km²). There were 11,695 housing units at an average density of 1,841.3/sq mi (711.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 43.00% White, 0.75% African American, 1.74% Native American, 3.29% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 45.92% from other races, and 5.18% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 75.12% of the population, with the majority of these being of Mexican origin.
Watsonville is also known for a large Asian-American presence consisting of Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos despite the percentage of city residents as Asians has dropped since 1960. The Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos had residential sections and opened many businesses to serve their customer base in town during the mid 20th century. The history of east Asians in Watsonville dates back to the late 19th century and are involved in the local agricultural industry. After WWII as a result of Japanese-American internment, local farm companies began to attract Mexican migrant labor to the area in higher numbers and the town's racial-ethnic composition became more Hispanic in the 1980s and 1990's.
There were 11,381 households out of which 49.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.3% were married couples living together, 16.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.1% were non-families. 17.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.84 and the average family size was 4.26.
In the city the population was spread out with 34.0% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 15.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females there were 101.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,617, and the median income for a family was $40,293. Males had a median income of $26,701 versus $22,225 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,205. About 15.4% of families and 19.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.8% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those age 65 or over.
In the state legislature Watsonville is located in the 15th Senate District, represented by Republican Abel Maldonado, and in the 28th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Anna M. Caballero. Federally, Watsonville is located in California's 17th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +17 and is represented by Democrat Sam Farr.
The Monterey/Salinas metro area is served by a variety of local television stations, and is the 124th largest designated market area (DMA) in the U.S. with 222,900 homes:
The Monterey/Salinas area lost its American Broadcasting Company broadcast affiliate in 2000, when KNTV was purchased, and then became the NBC station for the San Francisco Oakland San Jose metropolitan area. KNTV, now known as NBC11, later moved its tower from Loma Prieta Peak to San Bruno Mountain, ceasing its coverage in Monterey. At that time, ABC reached an agreement with Comcast Cable to provide a slightly-customized feed of San Francisco ABC O&O KGO-TV for the Monterey area, branded simply as ABC 7 and occasionally referred to by the mock call letters AABC.
All charter schools in Watsonville are under the jurisdiction of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.