Anneliese Vance-Sherman is a labor market economist with the Employment Security Department (ESD). She covers Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom Counties.
The unemployment rate has been on a downward march since early 2010, and the number of jobs in Washington has continued to climb, reaching pre-recession levels in late 2013. Based on these two metrics, there is no question that we are in a recovery mode—yet the recovery has not reached all Washingtonians—and certainly not all in the same way. Another meaningful metric we can look at is wages.
• Median wages increased from 2008 to 2009—as we entered into recession. This is not a result of increasing wages per se—but rather a reflection that the initial wave of job losses hit low income workers the hardest.
• Wage growth has been stagnant throughout the recovery period of the Great Recession. Compared to 2009, the 2013 median hourly wage in Washington has actually dipped slightly—from $22.40 to $22.09.
• The greatest job losses during the recession came from lower-wage jobs – particularly those earning less than $18 per hour. Although many of these jobs have been recovered, there were still fewer low wage jobs in 2013 than when the recession took hold.
• At the higher end of the wage scale, employment levels increased over the same time period.
• From 2007 to 2013, the median wage increased by $0.62 per hour. Wage increases were not uniform for all workers. Wage increases from 2007 to 2013 tended to be concentrated among the highest wage jobs, while lower wage jobs remained largely unchanged over that time period.
• Full time workers at jobs paying the lowest 10 percent of wages (an average wage of $9.50 per hour in 2013) saw their wages increase by $0.22 per hour or 2.4 percent from 2007 to 2013. At the other end of the scale, workers at jobs paying the highest 10 percent of wages (an average wage of $100.33 per hour in 2013) saw their wages increase by $10.89 per hour or 12.2 percent).
If you’re interested in learning more about wages in Washington state, visit our Symposium web page page: https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/reports-publications/presentations/economic-symposiums. The 2014 Symposium held in Olympia focused on the question of wages in Washington.