Living and Working in Seattle, Washington

Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, and is the seat of King County, Washington. With a population of 4.02 million, Seattle is the 15th-largest city in the United States, and had a growth rate of 21.1% between 2010 and 2020, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing big cities.

Located on an idyllic isthmus between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Seattle is a seaport city. With beautiful scenery and greenery in every direction, Seattle – aka the “Emerald City” – offers a fantastic mix of recreational opportunities, arts and culture, sporting events, shopping, dining and drinking, and entertainment of every sort.

City Overview

Seattle is built on hills and around water, and beyond the waters lie two rugged mountain ranges, the Olympics to the west and the Cascades to the east, providing a stunning backdrop for the city. With a summit elevation of 14,411 feet, views of the towering Mt. Rainier loom large on clear days. The region was inhabited by Native Americans for at least 4,000 years before the first permanent European settlers arrived, and the town was named after Chief Seattle, leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes.

The climate in Seattle is somewhat mild, with cool, wet winters and warm, relatively dry summers. The area is the cloudiest region of the United States because of frequent storms and lows that move in from the Pacific Ocean. With many more rainy days than other major American cities, Seattle has a reputation for frequently being wet. However, temperature extremes are kept at bay due to the adjacent bodies of water and ocean: It doesn’t snow very often in Seattle, and heatwaves are not common either.

Located about 100 miles south of the Canadian border, Seattle is a bustling metropolis. The city comprises districts or neighborhoods including Capitol Hill, First Hill, West Seattle, Beacon Hill, Queen Anne, Magnolia, and the former Denny Hill. Similar to San Francisco, each neighborhood in Seattle has its own unique vibe and offerings. Those neighborhoods include Wallingford, Delridge, Mount Baker, Seward Park, Washington Park, Broadmoor, Madrona, Phinney Ridge, Sunset Hill, Blue Ridge, Broadview, Laurelhurst, Hawthorne Hills, Maple Leaf, and Crown Hill. If you are considering moving to Seattle, you can find detailed information about the region on websites such as Seattle, King County, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Visit Seattle.

If you are hoping to move to Seattle and don’t yet have a job lined up, here is a helpful article with tips on how to start looking for work before you get here. It’s a good idea to try to set up informational interviews ahead of time, and working with a recruiter can also help land that ideal position. For additional useful articles about living and working in Seattle, click here.

Seattle’s Job Market and Economy

In a Seattle Times article dated Oct. 20, 2023, it was reported that unemployment in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan area is 3.2%, lower than the 3.8% rate nationally and at a level that economists consider “full employment.” This level has been reached despite layoffs at some technology companies in the region recently.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, major industry sectors in Seattle include Mining and logging; Construction; Manufacturing; Trade, transportation, and utilities; Information; Financial activities; Professional and business services; Education and health services; Leisure and hospitality; Other services; and Government.

The BLS also reports that in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, the median hourly wage is $29.72, the mean hourly wage is $38.47, and the mean annual wage is $80,020. These rates may seem high, but the cost of living in Seattle is expensive compared to other cities in the Pacific Northwest and across the country. If you are interested in finding work in Seattle or have an interview lined up but need to know if the job will pay enough to be able to live in the area, here is a helpful article about how to ask those sometimes-tricky salary and benefits questions.

The Seattle Times reports that Boeing, founded and formerly headquartered in Seattle, remains critical to the Puget Sound region’s economy. In a list published on SEA Today, five of the largest employers in the Seattle area in terms of number of employees include Amazon with 90,000, Boeing with 60,244, Microsoft with 58,400, University of Washington with 51,849, and Providence Swedish with 22,771. MediaFeed adds these large companies to the list: Facebook with 58,600, T-Mobile with 75,000, Google with 140,000, Oracle with 135,000, and Costco Wholesale with 275,000.

Seattle’s higher institutions include the University of Washington, comprising three campuses in Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma, as well as a School of Medicine and world-class medical center serving the state and the region. UW has a Student Career Trek program, as well as alumni career services.

Seattle is also home to a number of smaller private universities including Seattle University, a Jesuit Catholic university, and Seattle Pacific University, a Free Methodist university. Seattle University offers Career and Mentoring services, and Seattle Pacific University provides a Center for Career and Calling and career counseling for recent alumni.

The Seattle Colleges District is a multi-college district with three comprehensive college campuses and five specialty training centers. The three colleges are North Seattle College, Seattle Central College, and South Seattle College. The Seattle Colleges District has career training programs and a College to Career program. Universities aimed at working adults in Seattle are City University, which offers career webinars, and Antioch University, which also has campuses in California, New England and online.

The Seattle Public Library has almost 30 branches throughout the region and is an excellent resource for those new to Seattle or searching for work. The library has a Job Resources page on its website that offers a wealth of information to assist in any stage of a career or job search in Seattle or elsewhere.

Lifestyle and Culture

Living and working in Seattle provides a nice mix of big-city perks with close-by escapes to serene places. Public transportation in the city is excellent, making navigation and commuting do-able, and the Seattle-Tacoma Airport is an international hub. When quieter experiences are desired, there are nearly 500 parks within city limits that offer something for everyone. Once outside the city limits, the recreational options are practically endless.

As reported in Payscale, the cost of living in Seattle is 50% higher than the national average, with housing prices at 111% higher than the national average, groceries at 25% higher and utilities at 6% higher. Seattle is less expensive than Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco according to, but more expensive than New York City, Houston, Chicago and nearby Portland.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average weekly wage for all industries in the Seattle metro area in the first quarter of 2023 was $1,952, as compared to a national average weekly wage of $1,465. The unemployment rate in Seattle for both August 2022 and August 2023 was 3.8%, which is roughly the same as the national average of 3.8% in August 2022 and 3.9% in August 2023.

Redfin lists the Seattle housing market as very competitive. Homes in Seattle receive three offers on average and sell in around 10 days. The median sale price of a home in Seattle was $800,000 in September 2023, down 2.7% over the same time period in 2022. The median sale price per square foot in Seattle as of September 2023 was $558, down 1.9% over 2022.

Seattle has a vibrant local arts and culture scene, and has a rich musical history. Known as the home of grunge, Seattle is a mecca for live music and a regional hub for performing arts. Seattle Rep, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet are but a sampling of the city’s cultural gems, and the museums and galleries are far too numerous to list. There are more than 80 theater companies, and dozens if not hundreds of concert halls and avant-garde music venues from which to choose.

Seattle is also a shopper’s paradise. From major department stores and local boutiques to antique malls, souvenir shops, and specialty food purveyors, Seattle has shopping opportunities to suit every taste and budget. When shopping for fresh seafood, produce, flowers, crafts and so much more, Pike Place Market, Seattle’s famous and historic waterfront public market, is a must-visit.

When seeking outdoor recreation, Seattle and its surrounding areas are renowned for miles of hiking and running trails, skiing and snowboarding, kayaking, motor boating, sailing, fishing, paddling, swimming, bicycling, indoor rock climbing, and team sporting events. There are three national parks in Washington that are easy trips from Seattle and offer exquisite outdoor activity options. Those parks include Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic.

Need to Know When Moving to Seattle

If you are new or planning a relocation to Seattle, here are some resources that can help you.

Utilit1ies: Here are some of the utility companies in Seattle. This list is not exhaustive.

Useful Links:

Job fairs and other job-seeker sources in Seattle:

Events calendars that offer an array of options for the whole family:

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