The average Washingtonian last year made 4.8 percent more in wages, though home costs grew about 11 percent and rent grew about 6.5 percent.

Share story

Workers across Washington and the Seattle area finally got a good pay hike last year, and yet it didn’t amount to much compared with the state’s soaring cost of housing, which led the nation last year.

The state Employment Security Department reported Wednesday that the average worker across the state made $58,957 in 2016, up 4.8 percent from a year earlier. The raise amounts to an extra $2,684 annually per person, before taxes.

It represented the largest bump in wages since 2007. It follows relatively weak pay growth of 2.6 percent in 2015, and beats the average wage increase of 3.4 percent over the last 10 years.

The biggest pay growth was in retail trade (up 19.9 percent), the information sector (up 5.8 percent) and real estate (up 5.2 percent).

The numbers look much better locally. The average pay in King County was $76,830 last year, up 6 percent from a year ago. That’s more than double the average pay raise in 2015.

In Snohomish County, however, pay grew just 2.4 percent, to a new average of $57,456 last year. Pierce County pay rose a mere 2.2 percent, to $47,850.

Pay in Washington state is higher and rising faster than the national average. The average U.S. wage last year was $49,630, up 2.7 percent from a year ago.

While the pay bump is an encouraging sign for workers, housing costs statewide still grew twice as fast as wages in 2016. Housing is typically a household’s biggest expense.

The cost of a house statewide grew 10 to 12 percent in 2016, depending on the month, according to Zillow. By the end of 2016 the typical home statewide cost $320,400, up from $286,100 at the end of 2015.

Washington home prices grew faster than any other state in the country in 2016, according to CoreLogic. Statewide home values grew almost twice as fast as the national average.

Of course, people who already own homes and are locked into fixed mortgage rates aren’t going to see their mortgage costs rise. But those looking for a house are falling further behind.

Assuming a 20 percent down payment, the average Washington homebuyer needed to put $64,080 down on a house last year, an extra $6,860 from a year before. That’s more than double the average pay hike over that span.

In the Seattle area, homebuyers are also struggling despite larger pay increases — because local home prices are zooming so much higher.

The buyer of a typical single-family house in King County needed a $110,000 down payment at the end of 2016, an extra $8,400 compared with the year before. The average King County worker, meanwhile, got a pay bump of $4,380 over that time.

Rents grew more slowly than home costs, but are still outpacing pay. Statewide, rents in 2016 grew about 6 to 6.5 percent from the previous year, according to Zillow data.

Locally, King County rents grew about 9 percent in 2016, also outpacing pay bumps.

The tenant of an average Washington apartment had to pay an extra $1,200 in yearly rent in 2016. That means a Washingtonian making the average salary would see nearly half their pretax pay bump last year go directly to their landlord for higher rents, though it’s probably more severe than that, since renters generally make less money than homeowners.

That ratio is at least better than the previous year. In 2015, average pay statewide grew $1,440 before taxes, while annual rent costs increased $980.