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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

June 19, 2013 at 10:33 AM

State’s average wage hits $50,000, but…

Washington’s average annual wage reached $50,000 for the first time, a 3.4 percent increase, according to the state Employment Security Department. Weekly wages rose from $959 to $992. Three industries powered the growth: company management, up 17.6 percent; information, up 11.5 percent, and agriculture, up 11.5 percent. The department states, “Much of the increase was driven by a 6.1 percent increase in the number of insured workers earning more than $75,000.”

Putting this in context is more challenging. The data include only wages covered by unemployment insurance. It’s not clear whether it is adjusted for inflation. In 2009, Washington’s average wage was $47,470. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, that translates into about $50,800 of today’s dollars. The 2000 wage of $37,546 comes out as $50.060 today. Purchasing-power calculations would be a bit more complex, but the results would be largely the same. So while the nominal value of the state’s average wage has grown, real wages are flat even in the land of software geniuses and airplane builders and middle- and lower-income workers are especially strapped. This tracks with national figures going back for years.

BACK ON THE WATERFRONT: Tom Bellerud, the Port of Tacoma’s director of container terminal business, talked with Pierce County TV recently about how the Grand Alliance’s move  from Seattle to Tacoma last summer is going. Container traffic is up 35 percent, with the port gaining 400,000 TEUs, the standard industry measure, to 1.7 million in 2012.

The narrator said “in the next few years” the port expects to reach 2.1 million TEUs, which was Tacoma’s record in 2006. And while Bellerud said 200 longshore jobs have been added and the increased traffic has “a cascading affect of other jobs,” I want to pause to consider the container count. If Tacoma’s hopes pan out, it will just be back where it was in 2006. At the Port of Seattle, where the Grand Alliance and Hamburg Sud lines called until a year ago, TEUs were 1,185,680 for 2012, down from 2,049,733 in 2011 (domestic containers, aka to Alaska, actually rose last year). It will take a few years to see the trend, and no disrespect to T-Town,  but both ports need to focus on what has been overall falling market share of Puget Sound ports. The wider Panama Canal will be open by 2015 if not sooner.

And Don’t Miss: People joining the U.S. workforce today are less educated than those leaving it | Quartz

Today’s Econ Haiku:

All eyes on the Fed

The bulls see that hot money

Savers have gone blind


Comments | More in | Topics: Living standards, Wages


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