Large shortfall of living wage jobs in Washington

Unemployment remains stubbornly high in Washington (9.3 percent) and King County (8.4 percent).  Finding any job is difficult in this economy, but finding a job that pays a livable wage may be even more difficult.   

A living wage is a wage that allows a family to meet its basic needs, without public assistance, and that provides them some ability to deal with emergencies and plan ahead. Livable wages range by household size. In King County, living wages are as follows (Table 1):

  • $16.72 ($34,778/yr) for a single adult
  • $22.90 ($47, 632/yr) for single parent with one child
  • $32.01 ($66,581/yr) for a single parent with two children
  • $30.18 ($62,774/yr) for two adults (one working) with two children

Table 1

Recent data suggests there is a large shortfall of jobs that pay livable wages in Washington (Figure 1). The recently released 2010 Northwest Job Gap study finds that 42 percent of job openings in Washington don’t pay a living wage for a single adult. The opportunities are worse for families with children. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of job openings do not pay a living wage for a single parent with one child, and over three-quarters (76 and 77 percent) do not pay a living wage for a single parent with one child or a two-parent family with two children.

Figure 1