Two advocacy groups say most residents of Benton and Franklin counties have jobs that pay a living wage to support themselves, but not enough to support a family of four.
Data provided Thursday by Washington Community Action Network and the Alliance for a Just Society suggests a worker in the Tri-Cities needs to earn $13.64 an hour, or $545 a week, to meet living expenses. That comes to $28,000 a year.
But that is only to support one person. Supporting a family of four, for example, would require more for a living wage or force the family to rely on some kind of public support or secondary income, said Will Pittz, executive director of Washington CAN.
The $13.64 per hour compares with a state average of $15.28 for a living wage, but it is well below most wages in the Tri-Cities.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Hourly wages in Franklin and Benton counties were as low as $8.54 per hour to as high as $84.59 per hour in 2008, with the midpoint being $20.11 per hour, said Ajsa Slujic, regional labor economist with the Employment Security Department at WorkSource Columbia Basin in Kennewick.
Slujic said while there aren't enough jobs for everyone in the Tri-Cities, those who do have jobs more than likely are able to support themselves with a living wage "at the moment."
Washington CAN's data was based on federal cost of living indices for eight categories: food, housing, transportation, health care, child care, clothing and personal items, a small savings and taxes, said CAN's Jill Managaliman.
Pittz noted the 2010 living-wage analysis determined that three of five jobs in the state provided a living wage.
But Slujic said in the Tri-Cities it appears living-wage jobs outnumber those that don't pay enough to support a person working full time.
Slujic said the job picture is difficult to interpret in Benton and Franklin counties because of so much retail employment, much of which is part-time work that doesn't offer full benefits.
Having lower-paying agricultural seasonal employment in Franklin County and high-paying Hanford jobs in Benton County also complicates efforts to determine how close the average worker in the Tri-Cities is to meeting or beating a living wage.
The U.S. Census reports Benton County's median household income in 2008 at $54,544 while Franklin County's median family income was $44,744.
Median is the middle in a range of numbers, with an equal number above and below.