Report: Washington employees’ wages rose in 2011

July 24, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Washington employees earned a little more last year.

Statewide, the average annual wage grew by 3.6 percent in 2011, outpacing Seattle-area inflation by 0.9 percentage points, state Employment Security Department officials reported June 19.

The annual average rose from $48,162 in 2010 to $49,894 in 2011. The average weekly wage rose from $926 to $959.

The figures include only wages covered by unemployment insurance.

Officials attributed the increase in large part to a 7.5 percent increase in the number of insured workers earning more than $75,000. Overall, the number of workers in Washington covered by unemployment insurance increased by 37,764 last year, and earnings grew by $6.6 billion.

“Month to month, we’ve been seeing strong growth in industries that tend to offer above-average pay, and that seems to be reflected in last year’s earnings,” Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause said in statement.

The industries with the highest wage growth last year included the information sector (9.5 percent growth), company management (up 7.9 percent) and manufacturing (up 5 percent).

The numbers stood in contrast to the 2.1 percent increase in 2010. Officials attributed the smaller increase then to the loss of low-paying jobs.

The average annual wage is used to calculate unemployment benefits for jobless workers.

The minimum weekly unemployment benefit, calculated at 15 percent of average weekly wage, is due to increase by $5 to $143, for claims opened on or after July 1. The maximum weekly benefit, calculated at 63 percent of average weekly wage, is due to increase by $21, to $604.

Officials said about 18 percent of unemployment-insurance claims receive the maximum benefit amount, and 7 percent receive the minimum.

In addition to unemployment benefits, the average annual wage is used to compute employers’ unemployment taxes. Starting next year, employers must pay unemployment taxes on the first $39,800 paid to each employee, up from $38,200 in 2012.

The state average wage also is used by the Department of Labor & Industries in calculating worker’s compensation benefits.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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