Washington’s average wage nears $59,000 in 2016

Washington’s average annual wage grew by 4.8 percent in 2016 to $58,957, representing the largest percentage increase year over year since 2007.

The average weekly wage rose from $1,082 in 2014 to $1,133 in 2016, according to the state Employment Security Department These figures include only those wages covered by unemployment insurance.

Much of the increase was driven by a 7.3 percent increase in total earnings, which grew by nearly $12.5 billion in 2016. Overall, the average number of workers in Washington covered by unemployment insurance grew by just over 74,000 in 2016.

The industries with the largest average wage growth in 2016 were:

• Retail trade, up 19.9 percent;

• Information, up 5.8 percent; and

• Real estate, rental and leasing, up 5.2 percent.

The average annual wage is used to calculate unemployment benefits for jobless workers. The minimum weekly unemployment benefit, calculated at 15 percent of the average weekly wage, will increase by $7 to $169 for new claims opened on or after July 3. At the same time, the maximum weekly benefit, which is the greater of $496 or 63 percent of the average weekly wage, will increase by $32 to $713.

Currently, about 20 percent of unemployment insurance claims are paid the maximum benefit amount, and 10 percent receive the minimum.

In addition to unemployment benefits, the average annual wage is used in computing employers’ unemployment taxes. Beginning in 2018, employers will pay unemployment taxes on the first $47,300 paid to each employee — up from $45,000 in 2017.

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

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