The Spokane Journal of Business recently published an article which might cause worry among some in the area. The story noted how newly released information indicates that the average hourly wage in Spokane is about 6% behind the nationwide average–$20.65/hour compared with the $22.01/hour. According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, this represented a slightly widening gap as the discrepancy was only 5% the prior year. The situation is even more stark when looking only at Washington state. The state average at this same time was at $24.59/hour. Observers point out that King County significant skews the statewide figures.
Spokane is certainty not the only area that is a bit off the state average.
Breaking out the data into regions of the state provides even more interesting comparisons, a reminder of the significant wage differences based on location. For example, the metro area that includes Seattle, Bellevue, and Everett had an hourly wage average of $27.68, representing a significant 26% edge on the national average. That compares with far lower averages in places like Yakima ($18.89) and Wenatchee ($19.75).
So is any of this a cause for concern?
While those living and working in areas with lower averages wages may assume these figures represent bad news, particularly, when compared with yearly trends, many observers point out that none of this necessarily represents something that should cause great concern.
For example, in Spokane, a representative from a local business development group explained, “”We know we typically have a lower average wage than the West Side, and some of that is our lower cost of living. Some of it is the type of jobs over here, but while our average wage is 6 percent lower than the national average, the jobs that are growing here have a far higher average wage now […] Our cost of living is about 6 percent less than the national average. That makes a difference.”
Of course, measuring relative wealth is important, as cost of living factors into overall quality of life. At the same time it should not be ignored that in Spokane–and elsewhere throughout Washington–wages have been stagnant when measured against inflation over the last several years. That means that one’s ability to actually buy goods and services has not changed recently, even though the raw salary totals has ticked slightly upward.
Understanding the implications of wage comparisons is tricky business. At the end of the day it is difficult to make specific comparisons between locations as so many variables are involved. One top of average salaries, benefit issues, overtime pay, paid time off, and other factors also must be considered.
At the end of the day, more than comparisons between different communities, the main concern for most employees is that they are treated fairly (and legally) by their employer. If you ever have questions about whether rules are being violated in your case, feel free to reach out to our Washington employment lawyers today.