How much are you making? Statistics show which Whatcom jobs are paying the most

Here are the top 10 employers in Whatcom County

Here are the top 10 employers in Whatcom County, according to information compiled by the Center for Business Research at Western Washington University.
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Here are the top 10 employers in Whatcom County, according to information compiled by the Center for Business Research at Western Washington University.

Whatcom County wages increased by nearly 49 cents per hour — slightly more than $1,000 annually — in 2018, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the county’s earnings are lagging well behind state and national averages.

According to the data released Wednesday, July 3, the average hourly wage in the Bellingham metropolitan statistical area, which is Whatcom County, as of May 2018 was $23.58 per hour or approximately $49,050 per year. That’s a 2.1% increase over 2017, when Whatcom’s average wage was $23.09 or $48,030 annually.

But the county’s wages were approximately 6% lower when compared to the national average of $24.98, the statistics showed.

Whatcom is even further behind when compared to the rest of Washington state, where the average wage was $28.56 — 21.1% higher than Whatcom’s. Workers in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area averaged $31.44 per hour.

The number of people employed in Whatcom County increased by nearly 3,000, according to the statistics, growing from 85,600 in 2017 to 88,580 last year.

So, which jobs do you really want in Whatcom County?

Wages in eight of the 22 major occupational groups tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics were significantly lower than national averages, though half were above the national averages in those groups, including protective service; healthcare support; and construction and extraction.

Management occupations were the highest paid group at an average of $51.04 per hour, while architecture and engineering ($41.58 per hour); computer and mathematical ($37.86); healthcare practitioners and technical ($36.20); legal ($34.86); business and financial operations ($32.82); protective service ($31.31); and life, physical and social science ($30.81) were the only other occupation groups to average more than $30 per hour.

Combined, those occupations represent 20.3% of the jobs, led by business and financial operations (4.9%) and healthcare practitioners and technical (4.7%).

On the other end of the spectrum, food preparation and service occupations, which represented 10.3% of the jobs, were the lowest paid at an average of $14.15 per hour. Other occupation groups making less than $20 an hour were: personal care and service ($14.98); building and ground cleaning and maintenance ($15.18); healthcare support ($18.28); farming, fishing and forestry ($18.60); sales and related ($19.03); transportation and material moving ($19.10); and office and administrative support ($19.16).

Those occupation groups represented more than half (51.7%) of Whatcom’s jobs, led by office and administrative support (14.4% — Whatcom’s largest individual occupation) and sales and related (10.5%).

The highest paid individual occupations in Whatcom County, according to the statistics, are physicians and surgeons at an average of $128.17 per hour or $266,600 annually. The lowest paid individual occupation is a tie between ushers, lobby attendants and ticket takers and physical therapist aides, which each averaged $11.92 per hour or $24,800 annually.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.