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New York Pays Big Apple Wages 30 percent Higher than National Average

Workers in the New York metropolitan area earn an average hourly wage nearly 30 percent higher than the rest of the nation, a federal study finds. The study tracked more than 700 jobs in 22 occupations.

August 19, 2008
Workers in the New York metropolitan area earn an average hourly wage nearly 30 percent higher than the rest of the nation, according to a new study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ New York office.

Based on May 2007 data, chief executives earn an average of $93.37 an hour, surgeons make $89.78 and orthodontists rake in $87.09, driving salaries in the area to an average of $25.38 per hour, according to the report. They are the top three hourly occupations in the area.

Average hourly wages in the local area — which includes the five boroughs, Westchester County and northern New Jersey-were higher than those in the rest of the country in all 22 major occupational groups that were tracked. The highest wage differential came in the construction and extraction group, which at $27.91 an hour was nearly 43 percent above the national average.

The study tracked more than 700 jobs ranging from automotive technicians ($18.68 an hour) to zoologists ($19.82 an hour). The salaries were capped at a little more than $200,000 so the average would retain significance. In case you were wondering, nuclear engineers earn $46.83 an hour.

“What’s interesting is the wealth of jobs in this city and the diversity of positions,” said Michael Dolfman, director of the BLS New York office. “It shows the strength of the economy.”

Management and legal occupations are the two highest-paid occupational groups, with management professionals earning $62.07 and those in legal positions making $56.12. The lowest-paid workers were in food preparation and serving, earning $11.95, though this was still significantly above the national average of $9.35.

The largest occupational group in the area was office and administrative support, which accounted for nearly 1 million workers, or 19.5 percent of employment.

Frank Braconi, an economist at the city comptroller’s office, said New York’s salary premium was not surprising because workers in urban areas tend to make more than those in other locales.

“You’re looking at New York versus the United States,” he said. “If you were to look at New York versus San Francisco or versus Chicago or versus Boston, the difference wouldn’t be as large.”

He also said the premiums must mean New York workers are more productive than workers elsewhere in the country.

“New York companies would not be able to survive paying that wage differential unless there was an offsetting production advantage to being in New York,” he said.

The high rate of unionization, the high cost of living and high educational attainment were other factors contributing to the salary differential.

Filed by Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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