The presence of local medical schools has brought an influx of highly paid professionals to the Spokane area, pushing up average wages.
The average annual wage in Spokane County rose to $46,562 last year, a gain of nearly 4 percent from 2016.
Jobs were created in scientific and research fields ($60,000 average wage), information technology ($80,000) and advanced manufacturing ($53,000), said Doug Tweedy, a regional economist for the Washington Employment Security Department.
Some of those positions were directly associated with Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and the University of Washington School of Medicine’s partnership with Gonzaga University, Tweedy said.
Other jobs were spinoffs, locating here because of proximity to the medical schools, he said.
Competition for workers also influenced local wages last year, said Grant Forsyth, economist for Avista Corp. With unemployment at 5.4 percent in Spokane County, some employers had to pay more to attract workers, he said.
To earn Spokane County’s 2017 average wage, a worker would have had to earn about $22.37 per hour, or $895 per week.
Tweedy cautioned against trying to extrapolate from the numbers. The average wage gain of nearly 4 percent is calculated from total payroll numbers. It doesn’t mean that most workers got a 4 percent raise, he said.
But on a countywide basis, the 4 percent income growth is significant, Tweedy said. It means disposable income has risen in Spokane County.
Wages are increasing faster than inflation, said Forsyth, the Avista economist. Last year, the U.S. Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index – a measure of inflation – rose by 1.7 percent. Local inflation rates were probably pretty similar, he said.
“People are probably enjoying a rising standard of living in terms of goods and services they can buy,” Forsyth said. “Your purchasing power is increasing over time.”
Spokane County’s average wage is lower than the state’s average. Washington’s average annual wage grew by 5 percent in 2017 to $61,887, according to the Employment Security Department.
Statewide, there’s a large variation in average wages by county. Workers in rural Okanogan County earned the lowest average wage last year – $33,126.
Workers in populous King County took home the highest average wage – $81,550.
This story was updated to correct the average hourly wage.
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