Washington state hit a sweet spot of both strong employment and wage growth in the fourth quarter, according a recent report on the private-sector workforce.
Contrary to the popular perception that American wages are stagnant, wages are going up for some full-time workers — those who have been employed for more than a year — according to the most recent ADP Workforce Vitality Report, which analyzes private-sector job and wage growth.
Washington state in particular hit a sweet spot of both strong employment and wage growth, the report found.
An ADP index that combines both factors shows the Evergreen State far outpacing any other state in growth during the fourth quarter of 2015 compared with the year-earlier period.
Washington earned an index score of 117.9 — topping the national average of 106.8 and other states such as California, 108.7; Texas, 108.8; and New York, 105.4.
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“Washington is really overperforming on employment growth,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, head of research for ADP, a payroll services company.
Nationwide, employment and wages both increased by 2.1 percent year-over-year during the fourth quarter of 2015.
In Washington, however, employment climbed by 3.7 percent. Much of that came from hiring in construction, information technology, professional services, and leisure and hospitality industries.
Meanwhile, wage growth in Washington matched the national average. When researchers excluded new workers and those retiring, wage growth looks more robust.
For current full-time employees, wages in Washington were up 5 percent year-over-year during the fourth quarter, compared with 4.1 percent nationally.
The Seattle Search Group, an executive search and staffing agency, recently placed a controller at a new company with a salary of $95,000 — $10,000 more than her previous employer paid her to do the same job.
That scenario — jumping ship for a big pay raise — plays out often for qualified workers who are “at the top of their game,” said John Herd, founder of Seattle Search Group.
Candidates with weaker résumés or who have been out of the workforce for a while are struggling to land jobs.
In sectors such as in retail and hospitality, some employers in the region are raising wages for managers in response to recent minimum-wage bumps in Seattle and SeaTac, said Sage Wilson, spokesperson for Working Washington, an advocacy organization.
Anecdotally, Wilson has heard of employers outside of those cities finding that they must match higher wages to compete for employees. The minimum-wage increases, however, are relatively new and could take years before they significantly impact statewide data.
Washington has consistently added jobs for the last three or four years, Yildirmaz said, but it’s unclear where the trend will go next.
Boeing, the largest private employer in Washington, announced last week it plans to impose cost-cutting measures, including eliminating jobs. The extent of those job cuts is yet to be seen.