Competing with Seattle’s Cost of Living
CNBC.com recently published an article stating that since 2010, Seattle has been among the fastest growing cities in the US; however, population isn’t the only thing increasing in Seattle. Seattle’s cost of living is climbing so much so that The Council on Economic and Community Relations reported that Seattle is close to 24% more expensive to live in than the average city in the United States. To put this data in perspective, in order to afford the same quality of living as someone with a $50,000 annual salary in a typical US City, someone in Seattle would have to make $62,000 annually. Although these numbers are intimidating for most job seekers, they are especially intimidating to recent college grads that are excited to move to Seattle but are concerned that a starting salary won’t cover their living expenses.
As an employer, your goal is to attract and hire the best candidates and the best way to do that is to offer a reasonable wage based not only on the candidate’s credentials, but also on the cost of living in your area. Before you start offering new employees higher wages, it is important to understand where their wages are going and how you can compete with Seattle’s increasing cost of living.
Where is your employee’s money going?
In order to understand why new hires in Seattle are hoping to earn a higher annual salary, it is important to understand what they are spending their money on. Both housing and transportation costs are large expenses that affect a new hire’s perspective on how much they believe they should be paid.
Although buying a house is the goal of many Seattle residents, renting is a more realistic choice especially for job candidates who have recently graduated from college. Financially, renting is a better option for many; however, with the average price of a 2 bedroom apartment in Seattle being $2,100 (which is almost 80% higher than the national average according to myapartmentmap.com), even renting can feel like a stretch. Of course employees can choose to live outside of the city in less expensive areas, but then there are transportation costs to consider as well as time spent commuting that can impact work/life balance.
If an employee decides to pay the high price to live in Seattle, they have a few options for transportation. The light rail, bus system, driving and biking are all options to get to work. Two of the most popular means of transportation, taking the bus and driving, are still fairly high in price when considering that an Orca card is around $100 a month and driving to work means dealing with high gas prices, parking and sitting in traffic. And for those who choose to live in a surrounding area to save on housing costs, there remains the cost of gas and increasing road tolls.
Competing with the Cost of Living
Knowing that to work in Seattle, a candidate will either be stuck with high housing costs or having to commute from outside of the city, it is important to consider how much you are going to offer job candidates. It is easy for candidates to find information and data about the cost of living in Seattle, and chances are that your job candidates will be researching the cost of living to see if working for your company (at the salary range that you are offering) will fulfill their needs. It is equally important for you as the employer to be educated about current market conditions so that if they counter your original offer, you are able to confidently explain why you believe that the wage you are offering is appropriate for the position and the location of your company.
Effective January 1, 2017, the minimum wage in the city of Seattle will reach $15 an hour. As an employer, this should indicate that your benchmark for entry level jobs for college graduates should increase, considering that minimum wage will most likely drive up the cost of living in Seattle. Offering college graduates more than the standard $15 an hour can set you apart from other companies in Seattle.
In order to stay competitive and draw the right candidates to your business, you will want to follow the trend in Seattle of raising wages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that wages and salaries in the Seattle area are 2.9 percent higher than last year showing that businesses are indeed attempting to compete with the cost of living in the area. Along with higher wages, some companies offer transportation assistance in the form of Orca cards or Vanpools that can be a strong selling point when offering a candidate a position.
As Seattle’s popularity continues to grow, chances are that the cost of living will also. As an employer, it is important to be aware of the cost of living, reflect on what your employees deserve to be paid in relation to the cost of living, and offer your new hires a fair wage in order to stay competitive while hiring the best candidates.