Jobs are booming, but wages are fizzling for (most) Washington workers

The State of Working Washington 2018: Part 1

By many measures, Washington’s economy has soared since the Great Recession. Since 2008, the state has added over 404,000 total nonfarm jobs, and average hourly wages climbed 13 percent after adjusting for inflation. But while more people are bringing home paychecks compared to a decade ago, wage growth for most workers has been anemic at best. In the state’s largest eight employment sectors – which comprise 68.5 percent of all nonfarm employment and have contributed three-fourths of new jobs since 2008 – average wages have increased just $853, or 1.7 percent, annually.[1]

A single subsector, Nonstore Retail (think Amazon), accounts for nearly half of that wage increase – but just 1.6 percent of the state’s total jobs in 2018. Put another way: excluding Nonstore retail, average wages have increased only $387 (0.8 percent per year) for 67 percent of Washington workers. And while at first glance, manufacturing looks like a source of relatively high-wage employment, outside of the aerospace subsector (where wages are above the state average but employment is flat), wages are below average, and employment has declined since 2008.

Tableau

Job and Wage Growth 2008-18: High Employment Sectors, Washington

Sector Total Jobs
(% of total)
2018
New Jobs
(% of total)
2008-18
Avg. Wage
(versus WA avg.)
2018
Avg. Yearly Wage Increase (%)
2008-18
Health Care and Social Assistance 426,350
(12.5%)
79,658
(19.7%)
$53,015
(-$24,025)
$323
(0.6%)
Retail Trade 392,375
(11.5%)
65,008
(16.1%)
$55,168
(-$21,872)
$1,999
(5.7%)
Retail Trade (less Nonstore retailers)* 339,217
(10.0
%)
23,724
(5.9
%)
$34,475
(-$42,565)
$133
(0.4%)
Nonstore retailers* 53,158
(1.6%)
41,284
(10.2%)
$176,373
(+$99,333)
$8,722
(9.8%)
Local Government 356,225
(10.5%)
32,592
(8.1%)
$57,368
(-$19,672)
$314
(0.6%)
Accommodation and Food Services 287,138
(8.5%)
51,196
(12.7%)
$22,948
(-$54,092)
$320
(1.6%)
Manufacturing 284,588
(8.4%)
-6,587
(-1.6%)
$85,217
(+$8,177)
$1,160
(1.6%)
Manufacturing (less aerospace) 201,900
(5.9%)
-6,283
(-1.6%)
$65,465
(-$11,575)
$435
(0.7%)
Aerospace 82,688
(2.4%)
-304
(-0.1%)
$130,927
(+$53,887)
$2,615
(2.5%)
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services 211,175
(6.2%)
44,375
(11%)
$101,164
(+$24,414)
$1,690
(2.0%)
Construction 210,150
(6.2%)
9,692
(2.4%)
$68,115
(-$8,925)
$870
(1.5%)
Administrative and Support Services 158,025
(4.7%)
25,283
(6.3%)
$50,167
(-$26,873)
$902
(2.2%)
Total/Average 2,326,026
(68%)
301,217
(75%)
$59,815
(-$17,225)
$853
(1.7%)

Source: Washington State Employment Security Department: 1) Employment Estimates (WA-QB, not seasonally adjusted) through August 2018, and 2) Covered Employment (QCEW) through 2018 Q1. *2018 Retail Trade (less Nonstore retailers) and Nonstore retailers employment data is estimated based on 2017 data; wages shown are through 2017 Q4, inflation-adjusted to 2018.

Meanwhile, a handful of high-wage job categories have been reaping most of the gains of a growing economy. Four sectors (Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Information; Finance and Insurance; and Management of Companies and Enterprises) comprise only 14 percent of nonfarm employment, and have contributed just 20 percent of new jobs since 2008 – but wages have grown an average $3,295 (3.4 percent) yearly. Wage increases in the Software Publishing subsector are particularly outsized, averaging $7,284, or 4.2 percent, per year. But even excluding that sector, wages increased an average $1,930, or 2.9 percent, in these sectors each year.[2]

Tableau

Job and Wage Growth 2008-18: High Wage Sectors, Washington

Sector Total Jobs
(% of total)
2018
New Jobs
(% of total)
2008-18
Avg. Wage
(versus WA avg.)
2018
Avg. Yearly Wage Increase (%)
2008-18
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services 211,175
(6.2%)
44,375
(11.0%)
$101,164
(+$28,124)
$1,690
(2.0%)
Information 131,488
(3.9%)
25,871
(6.4%)
$204,008
(+$126,968)
$7,896
(6.3%)
Information (less Software publishers) 67,276
(2.0%)
12,601
(3.1
%)
$162,820
(+$85,780)
$8,386
(10.6%)
Software publishers 64,212
(1.9%)
13,270
(3.3%)
$247,104
(+$170,064)
$7,284
(4.2%)
Finance and Insurance 99,325
(2.9%)
-475
(-0.1%)
$95,765
(+$18,725)
$845
(1.0%)
Management of Companies & Enterprises 45,525
(1.3%)
10,808
(2.7%)
$128,164
(+$51,124)
$2,309
(2.2%)
Total/Average 487,513
(14%)
67,764
(20%)
$130,323
(+$53,283)
$3,295
(3.4%)

Source: Washington State Employment Security Department: 1) Employment Estimates (WA-QB, not seasonally adjusted) through August 2018, and 2) Covered Employment (QCEW) through 2018 Q1.

Footnotes

[1] Based on EOI analysis of Washington State Employment Security Department data from 1) Employment Estimates (WA-QB, not seasonally adjusted) through August 2018, and 2) Covered Employment (QCEW) through 2018 Q1. Wages expressed in 2018 dollars using CPI-U-RS. 2018 wages are annualized average of seasonally adjusted Q1 wages. 2018 Retail Trade (less Nonstore retailers) and Nonstore retailers employment data is estimated based on 2017 data; wages are through 2017 Q4, inflation-adjusted to 2018.

[2] Based on EOI analysis of Washington State Employment Security Department data from 1) Employment Estimates (WA-QB, not seasonally adjusted) through August 2018, and 2) Covered Employment (QCEW) through 2018 Q1. Wages expressed in 2018 dollars using CPI-U-RS. 2018 wages are annualized average of seasonally adjusted Q1 wages.

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