Comparison of average wages between Spokane and King Counties

A sample of job categories was selected from the Workforce Explorer web site for Industry Trends. A few were dropped out because the job category did not exist in both counties.

  • Most Spokane County workers are paid less and professional high skilled private sector workers are paid a lot less.
  • While we have come to expect lower pay in Spokane, some of the differences are shocking.
Table of average wages in $s in Spokane versus King County. The difference is shown in the right most column. Bright green is higher. Dark green is “close”. Bright red is -24% or worse difference.
Occupation Spokane King County Spokane Pay
Public Schools/Education
Teacher 33207 36051 -8%
Elementary Teacher 58227 55921 4%
Education administrator 100703 102037 -1%
Government workers
Firefighter 61987 72591 -15%
Police and Sheriff 64560 72205 -11%
Zoologists and wildlife biologists 57261 62254 -8%
Health Care
Pharmacist 107792 95782 13%
Registered Nurse 65735 77800 -16%
Physician assistant 88684 100508 -12%
Dentist 147660 159630 -7%
Nursing aides 24342 30917 -21%
Private Sector Jobs
Science and Technology
Industrial engineer 69391 83122 -17%
Mechanical engineer 62946 82890 -24%
Software engineer, apps 70504 94071 -25%
Software engineer, systems 74135 99318 -25%
Computer programmer 54288 95782 -43%
Chemist 50917 73321 -31%
Chemical technician 38653 35160 10%
Law & Business
Lawyer 90215 118674 -24%
Paralegal 35344 53588 -34%
Marketing manager 108781 125807 -14%
Sales manager 82235 119374 -31%
Advertising/promotions manager 48198 101550 -53%
Architect 83145 72237 15%
Editors 58218 61492 -5%
Reporters and correspondents 40346 54105 -25%
Roofer 35953 46263 -22%
Truck Driver 39584 43626 -9%
Sheet metal worker 35946 57792 -38%
Cooks, all other 23731 29322 -19%
Retail sales 21486 24151 -11%
Bus and truck mechanic 42489 51252 -17%
Hairdresser, stylist, cosmetologist 33459 32702 2%
Mobile heavy equip. mechanic 41968 59303 -29%

Wage data from the State’s Workforce Explorer Industry Trends section.

What It Means
  • Education sector pays about the same.
  • Government and health care pay some what less.
  • Private sector highly educated workers are paid remarkably less.
  • Those considering moving to Spokane need to consider the income ramifications of their career sector.
  • At present pay levels, there will not be a science or technology cluster in Spokane. With extraordinarily low pay, Spokane will have difficulty attracting high quality scientists and engineers needed to create a regionally or nationally competitive science and technology cluster.
  • At present pay levels, the same issue impacts creation of national classes businesses.
  • “Editors” average is about the same in both counties. This may account for why there is little news coverage of the chronic low wage problem in Spokane – low wages do not affect them!  But reporters’ pay – ick!
Would be interesting to compare pay scales to Benton-Franklin counties, and to Clark County (Vancouver, Wa) area.

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A Tale of Two Cities – Spokane versus King County Wages

The following charts are produced using data provided by the State of Washington on average wages by county, and by category. The original data comes from here: and reading the data for each category, by county.

King County has higher wages than the state average.  A comparison to the State of Washington averages (instead of King County) is only slightly more favorable to Spokane. What these charts show is explained below the charts.  These are the top most categories within the State’s database. It is possible to get sub categories, elsewhere on the State’s web site, to compare, say, architects, rather than “Professional and Technical Services” and find that some specific job groups within each category pay better than indicated by the broad average.

Chart 1 – Spokane weekly average wages, by category, are shown in blue and King County in red.

Chart 2- Spokane weekly average wage, by category, as a percent of the average in King County.

Some one is bound to post a comment saying, “But how can this be true if Spokane wages are 80% of the state average? This looks much worse.”

For those of you on drugs, read carefully:

  • The above charts compare Spokane and King County, not the state average.
  • The above charts do not reflect that the fields with the greatest discrepancies do not account for  many jobs in Spokane. Here’s a chart from ESD that shows who works in what category. Health care, retail trade, accommodation and food services (and government, which is missing for King County) account for most of the jobs in Spokane.


The Education Services category is private education services. Public schools and universities are bundled under Government. However, the web site said it was missing the data on the Government category for King County so I was not able to compare Spokane and King County government employment.  Government accounts for 20% or $1 out of every $5 earned in Spokane County.

The State also splits out salaries by different categories or sub categories accessible at different locations in their web site. The sub categories produce different results than those shown above.

The above columns are not weighted by the number of people who work in these sectors. For example, the Information sector in Spokane, as a percent of the workforce, is well below the state average. The salary difference is huge but it effects a small number of workers.

The wage differences between Spokane and King County are staggering, particularly as we move to the right of the chart into the “high skilled” job categories. This is further evidence that Spokane County has few good paying jobs available for high skilled workers.

Another way to look at this is to say that high skilled workers choose Spokane for other reasons but at a cost of forgoing 35% to 60% of their earnings potential to live in Spokane. Or, that Spokane has a lower quality skilled work force and these are the market wages for their respective level of skill. No matter how you slice it, this is a tragedy.

To attract a “world class” work force will require substantially greater salaries to be paid in Spokane.  But relative salaries in Spokane have been dropping for over 30 years and no plan has worked to increase the Spokane wage level during that time.

And there is no plan that will work because chronic low wages are a feature! Spokane has long promoted itself as a business destination because of its low wage structure.

Not shown in the categories but pulled out of a different section of the WorkForceExplorer web site, Life Science salaries are 78% of those in King County. The Information sector, which includes “software publishers” but also includes online services and newspapers, pays just 39% of King County wages and just 45% of Washington State average salaries in that sector.

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Legislators propose to eliminate counties that cannot support themselves

Spokane in Spokane County

Image via Wikipedia

This will not pass – but if it did, it would abolish Spokane County:

If a county cannot economically support itself, then it should be dissolved and absorbed by surrounding counties. They put this proposal in House Joint Resolution 4214, which would amend the state constitution.

via Opinion | One county does not rule all in Washington state | Seattle Times Newspaper.

A Spokane area legislator is the author of the opinion column, above, and points out the ways Seattle benefits from rural economies. He recognizes that this bill would abolish most of the northeastern rural counties in Washington, likely merging all of them into a large county including Spokane.


In the last item, EWU researchers wrote:

The balance between transfer payments received and tax payments made for years 1991 and 1998 reveals that Spokane and Kootenai Counties both received more in Federal individual transfer payments than paid in personal income tax and social security contributions.

Consequently, the proposed legislation would likely abolish Spokane County and combine several counties together. No kidding.