Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Fewer Occupations Pay Enough to Rent in Washington

Home buying is unaffordable - but rent isn't much better

Wages vary dramatically between occupations. For those people lucky enough to be occupations where wages have kept pace with the cost of housing, typical rent is still about as affordable as it was more than a decade ago. But for many others, rent in Washington takes up a greater share of income than before.

Decreases in Pay Make It Harder to Rent in Washington

In 2010, approximately 1.2 million jobs (in more than 50 different occupational groups) paid enough to cover rent in Washington. That is, they paid a median wage sufficient to pay median 2-bedroom rent. As of 2021, that was the case for approximately 1 million jobs in just 2 dozen occupational groups – a decline of 16.6%. At the same time, the cost to rent has increased, widening the gap.

Of Washington’s 10 largest occupational groups, wage increases for computer occupations have retained the most rent purchasing power since 2010, with just 1.1 additional hours of work required to pay median rent in 2021. Information and Record Clerks have seen the greatest decline in purchasing power, with 5.8 hours of additional work needed to pay median rent in 2021 versus 2010.

*Affordable is defined as monthly rent less than or equal to 30% of monthly income for a full-time worker.


Everyone needs a place to live. Regardless of what profession someone is in – from teachers to Teamsters to telemarketers – their hard day’s work should cover rent in a decent apartment. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Washington, where many workers still can’t pay for a roof over their head.

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