Washington’s average annual wage grew by 2% in 2022 to $84,167, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department. Average wage growth slowed in 2022 compared to 2021, when average wages grew by 7.5% — the second-largest increase on record.
These figures include only those wages that are covered by unemployment insurance (UI).
The average annual wage is used to calculate:
- Unemployment benefits for claims opened on or after July 2, 2023.
- Paid family and medical leave (paid leave) benefits filed on or after Jan. 1, 2024.
- Employers’ unemployment taxes beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
The state Department of Labor & Industries also uses the average annual wage to calculate workers’ compensation benefits.
The average weekly wage rose from $1,586 in 2021 to $1,618 in 2022. These figures also include only those wages that are covered by UI.
The increase was driven by a 5.5% increase in employment covered through UI and a 7.6% increase in total wages and salaries, which grew by nearly $20.3 billion in 2022.
The average number of workers in Washington covered by UI rose from 3,257,983 in 2021 to 3,435,848 in 2022 – an increase of 177,865 workers.
The minimum weekly unemployment benefit will increase by $6 to $323 for new claims opened on or after July 2, 2023. It is usually calculated at 20% of the average weekly wage.
Due to legislative changes (SB 5061), the calculation is different for claimants who receive a weekly benefit amount below 20% of the average weekly wage. Their weekly benefit amount will be equal to their personal average weekly wage up to $323.
The maximum weekly benefit will increase by $20 to $1,019. It is calculated as the greater of either $496 or 63% of the average weekly wage.
The minimum paid leave benefit will stay at $100 for new claims filed on or after Jan. 1, 2024.
The maximum paid leave benefit will increase from $1,427 to $1,456.
The taxable wage base is the maximum amount on which employers must pay taxes for each employee. Unemployment insurance is an experience-based system. In general, employers’ tax rates depend on how much their former workers collect in unemployment benefits and the size of their payroll.
The UI tax rate for businesses is normally calculated and mailed to employers in December each year with the taxable wage base applying to a calendar year.
Beginning in 2024, employers will pay unemployment payroll taxes on the first $68,500 paid to each employee — up from $67,600 in 2022.
Learn more about UI tax rates at: esd.wa.gov/employer-taxes/determining-rates.
Table 1: Summary of how average annual wage (AAW) affects benefits and taxes
|2022 AAW||2021 AAW||2020 AAW|
|Average annual wage||$84,167||$82,508||$76,741|
|Weekly unemployment benefits||Minimum $323
|Weekly paid leave benefits||Minimum $100
|Annual unemployment taxes||On employees’ first $68,500||On employees’ first $67,600||On employees’ first $62,500|
Data and details
A greater percentage of workers gained employment in 2022 relative to the average wage increase. This helped push down the average wage-per-worker ratio. The information industry, which contains a significant number of tech businesses, paid out less wages overall in 2022. This also contributed to the lower percentage growth in the state’s average wage.
The industries with the largest average wage growth in 2022 were:
- Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services, up 8.8%.
- Accommodation and food services, up 7.9%.
- Public administration, up 5.1%.
Find more industry-level employment and wage information at esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/covered-employment.