National (US) Pay Trends


National Wage Growth, Q4 2020

since last quarter
year over year
since 2006

Highlights Q4 2020

Overtaking the number one spot after lagging behind San Jose and Seattle last quarter, nominal wages in Los Angeles grew by 0.8 percent Q/Q and 3.6 percent Y/Y. San Diego and Portland round out the top 3, where wages grew by 3.4 percent and 3.2 percent Y/Y, respectively.

Houston continued to see weak Y/Y growth at 1.8 percent and Q/Q growth of 0.3 percent. The metro’s economy is largely influenced by the price of oil, which was in decline before COVID-19 due to the Saudi-Russia price war. Kansas City has slipped to the bottom of the rankings, the manufacturing hub fell just below Houston at 1.7 percent Y/Y growth and a flat 0.0 percent Q/Q growth.

Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation industry retakes top spot, with 0.9 percent nominal wage growth Q/Q and 3.4 percent Y/Y. Retail & Customer Service takes second, nominal wages grew by 0.8 percent Q/Q and 3.2 percent Y/Y. Industries with higher wage growth may be benefiting from social distancing protocols or holiday spending. Alternatively, lay-offs among lower-paid workers in this sector may have skewed wages to higher averages.

Agencies & Consultancies has ranked at the bottom for wage growth by industry for the last two quarters, with nominal wage growth of 0.2 percent Q/Q growth and 1.5 percent Y/Y. The COVID-19 economy has likely caused businesses to cut expenses for contractors and consultants. Transportation & Warehousing is second to last for Q4 2020, with 0.5 percent Q/Q wage growth and 1.5 percent Y/Y wage growth.

Retail workers take the top spot in Q4. Retail jobs saw 3.6 percent growth Y/Y and 1.0 percent growth Q/Q in nominal wages. Holiday spending in combination with pandemic fatigue, which may have led to less rigorous adherence to Covid-19 policies, likely increased retail business. Supplemental hazard pay among retail workers or lay-offs among lower-paid workers may have also played a role in higher wages.

Architecture & Engineering jobs landed in the bottom for Q4 wage growth, with 1.8 percent Y/Y growth and 0.2 percent Q/Q growth. The Covid-19 pandemic and economy have likely disrupted projects and supply chains that sustain this sector. While projects earlier in the year may have been secured from pre-existing agreements, securing ventures as we are further into the pandemic economy may prove challenging.

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Real Wage Index

Since 2006, wages have risen 17.4 percent overall in the U.S. But when you factor in inflation, “real wages” have actually fallen 8.5 percent. In other words, the income for a typical worker today buys them less than it did in 2006. The PayScale Real Wage Index incorporates the Consumer Price Index (CPI) into The PayScale Index (which tracks nominal wages) and looks at the buying power of wages for full-time private industry workers in the U.S.

Real Wage Growth, Q4 2020

since last quarter
year over year
since 2006

The PayScale Index: National Real Wage Index (US)

?2020 PayScale, Inc.

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Methodology for The PayScale Index: Trends in Compensation

The PayScale Index tracks quarterly changes in total cash compensation for full-time, private industry employees and education professionals in the United States. In addition to a national index, it includes separate indices for specific industries, metropolitan areas, job categories, and company sizes. The PayScale Index uses 2006 average total cash compensation as a baseline.

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