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Loss of low-pay jobs helps raise average wage in Washington

The average wage in Washington rose nearly 2 percent last year, largely because thousands of low-paying jobs disappeared during the recession.

Average annual pay increased 1.9 percent to $47,153 in 2009 – the smallest increase since 2004. The average weekly wage was $906 last year, the Employment Security Department said today.

Among other things, average wage is used to compute unemployment-insurance benefits for jobless workers. Because the average wage increased in 2009, the minimum and maximum unemployment benefits will go up for new unemployment claims beginning next month.

The minimum weekly unemployment benefit, calculated at 15 percent of the average weekly wage, will increase by $2, to $135, for new claims opened on or after July 4. The maximum weekly benefit, calculated at 63 percent of the average weekly wage, will increase $10, to $570.

About 24 percent of unemployment-insurance claims are paid the maximum benefit amount, and 6 percent receive the minimum. Claims opened before July 4 will not see a change in the minimum or maximum benefit.

In addition to unemployment benefits, average annual wage is used in computing employers’ unemployment taxes. Beginning in 2011, employers will pay unemployment taxes on the first $37,300 paid to each employee, up from $36,800 this year.

About one-third of all employees in the state earned more than $37,300 last year.

Scott Maben
Scott Maben joined The Spokesman-Review in 2006. He currently is the Business Editor.

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