Seattle-area tech workers earn $279K/year on average in total compensation, according to new BLS data

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Skyscrapers dot the skyline in Downtown Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Editor’s note: This story and headline were updated to clarify that the average wage numbers include non-wage cash payments such as bonuses, travel expenses, 401K plans, and stock options. The numbers also reflect total annualized compensation and the workers included are in the Greater Seattle region. See the full BLS methodology here. 

Tech workers in the Seattle region were making an average annualized salary of $279,084 in the third quarter of 2019. That’s more than double the average wage of any other sector in the area, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s worth noting that the report does not include median salaries, a metric that would better reflect what most tech workers earn. High-paid executives have an outsized impact on the average.

The average wages also include total compensation, such as stock and bonuses that tech companies frequently offer to entice workers in a competitive labor market.

Still, the new data reflects a region increasingly stratified by income and occupation. The next highest-paying sector after the “information” sector is “professional and business services,” where workers were earning an average compensation of $97,396, annualized, in Q3. Across industries, workers in King County — which contains Seattle and surrounding communities — were earning an average of $94,328 per year in the third quarter of 2019.

Salaries in Greater Seattle’s “information” sector are actually down 2.7 percent from the same period in 2018, according to the BLS. The agency noted that average weekly wages can decrease significantly when there is a large increase of employees who receive below-average wages, for example.

Tech salaries in Seattle are far outpacing the income of financial workers in New York, an industry that has long been associated with generous paychecks and luxury lifestyles. Seattle tech workers are earning 56 percent more than the average financial worker in New York City, a trend first spotted by Bloomberg.

In the tech epicenter of the country, San Francisco, the Labor Bureau did not break out wages by sector. But overall, the average annualized wages in San Francisco were about $118,196, a 7.6 percent increase year-over-year.

The Seattle tech industry has experienced explosive growth over the past decade, led by giants such as Amazon and Microsoft and buoyed by startups and mid-sized companies. In addition to home-grown businesses, more than 130 out-of-town tech companies have opened Seattle engineering outposts to mine the region’s talent.

Competition has forced employers to vie for tech talent with increasingly generous compensation packages and benefits. The trend is exacerbated by low unemployment in Seattle and beyond. Average weekly wages rose in 350 of the nation’s 355 largest counties between 2018-2019, according to the Labor Bureau. Across the nation, average wages rose to $1,093 per week in Q3, a 3.6 percent spike from the previous year.

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