Local Pay Reports: Pay Growth Eases To 2.3 Percent in December

As 2018 draws to a close, wage growth has eased to a slower but healthy pace, bookending a year of accelerating wage growth for the American worker.

The latest edition of the Glassdoor Local Pay Reports shows that median base pay for full-time workers increased to $52,863 per year in December, up 2.3 percent from last year. That’s down slightly from November’s annual pay growth of 2.6 percent and marks the first month-over-month drop in the level of median annual pay since July 2017.

It’s too soon to say whether the dip is a signal of a long-term downward trend rather than normal monthly fluctuations or holiday volatility, but it does line up with worsening sentiment. Recent surveys of business executives by the New York Times and Duke University indicate almost half of respondents believe a recession will start in 2019. Glassdoor Economic Research’s latest report doesn’t anticipate a recession in the near term. However, as trade war tensions remain, the S&P 500 ends 2018 down and the Fed reconsiders its rate hike schedule, businesses may hesitate to raise wages despite a still-tight labor market.

Overall, 2018 saw strong wage growth on Glassdoor, as is clear in the chart below. The green line shows the steady increase in median base pay since January 2016. The blue line shows that the year-over-year percentage growth in annual pay has increased steadily from a low of 0.9 percent in January 2018 and holding above the 2 percent threshold since July 2018.

Despite economic uncertainty, wage growth for the American worker is still holding at a healthy rate above 2 percent. Whether 2019 will continue to ride the wave of accelerating wage growth from 2018 is unclear.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened in December with U.S. salaries on Glassdoor.

Pay Gains by Metro

Tech hub San Francisco was the metro with the fastest annual pay growth for a fifth month in a row, with median base pay rising 4.0 percent to $71,482 per year, higher than any other U.S. metro we track. It was followed by New York City (up 3.5 percent to $63,368 per year), Atlanta (up 3.4 percent to $55,324 per year) and Boston (up 3.3 percent to $61,232 per year).

The Houston metro area grew the slowest amongst U.S. metro areas at 1.7 percent, up to $55,981 per year. Chicago (up 2.1 percent to $57,206 per year) and Washington, D.C. (up 2.4 percent to $61,155 per year) rounded out the bottom three metros.

Here’s a list of median base pay and growth for all 10 metros in our December 2018 Local Pay Reports:

Area Median Base Pay YoY %
U.S. National $52,863 2.3%
San Francisco $71,482 4.0%
New York City $63,368 3.5%
Atlanta $55,324 3.4%
Boston $61,232 3.3%
Seattle $63,178 2.8%
Los Angeles $62,002 2.7%
Philadelphia $56,091 2.5%
Washington, D.C. $61,155 2.4%
Chicago $57,206 2.1%
Houston $55,981 1.7%

Jobs with the Fastest Pay Growth

Among the 84 job titles we track each month, here are the 10 jobs with the fastest growth in median base pay for full-time U.S. workers from one year ago in December:

Job Title Median Base Pay YoY %
Bank Teller $31,455 9.2%
Cashier $28,328 5.7%
Truck Driver $54,445 5.3%
Pharmacy Technician $32,340 5.3%
Solutions Architect $105,605 5.2%
Construction Laborer $41,156 5.0%
Java Developer $78,041 4.8%
Technician $47,451 4.7%
Security Officer $35,813 4.7%
Licensed Practical Nurse $44,352 4.3%

There are several themes that stood out in the December 2018 Local Pay Report:

  • With the economic recovery putting more money in the pockets of average Americans, the housing industry has recovered as well. As a result, demand for construction laborers has increased dramatically. Job openings in the industry increased by 22 percent over the last year, according to Glassdoor data. As demand for construction workers continues to rise, pay for these workers is following suit.
  • As the labor market tightens further, lower-wage jobs like bank tellers and cashiers are seeing strong annual pay growth. One major factor is the increasing political and public pressure on minimum wages in 2018. Minimum wage increases took effect in 21 states and D.C. and employers like Amazon and Wal-Mart increased minimum wages for workers. Despite concerns about rising labor costs and automation, employment and wage trends for these low-wage jobs remain positive. While some level of displacement is likely, don’t expect these jobs to be completely eliminated.
  • Throughout 2018, roles in high-technology and health care frequently appeared among the jobs with the fastest growing wages. This month, pharmacy technician and licensed practical nurse  in health care and solutions architects and Java developer in tech, saw wages rise significantly. As these fields experience ongoing shortages for workers with the required skills in their respective industries, pay will continue to rise.

Lowest Pay-Growth Jobs

Here are the 10 jobs with the lowest wage growth in December, compared to one year ago:

Job Title Median Base Pay YoY %
Project Manager $69,186 -5.7%
Producer $51,514 -3.7%
Loan Officer $43,328 -3.2%
Design Engineer $71,062 -2.4%
Web Designer $52,721 -0.8%
Pharmacist $124,141 -0.7%
Insurance Agent $42,221 0.3%
Medical Technologist $54,587 0.3%
Business Development Manager $70,284 0.4%
Consultant $73,225 0.5%

While all pay growth is the result of both supply and demand for workers, these jobs offer useful clues about where any remaining pockets of weakness are in today’s otherwise strong labor market.

Highest Paying Jobs

Jobs with the highest pay growth aren’t always the ones with the highest earning potential. Here are the jobs with the highest U.S. median base pay from our December Local Pay Reports:

Job Title Median Base Pay YoY %
Pharmacist $124,141 -0.7%
Solutions Architect $105,605 5.2%
Data Scientist $97,417 1.0%
Attorney $97,326 2.3%
Product Manager $95,709 3.6%
Tax Manager $94,793 3.0%
Software Engineer $88,046 3.3%
Professor $87,957 2.0%
IT Manager $81,291 1.1%
Systems Engineer $80,043 2.2%

Once again, three fields dominated the highest paying jobs in December: Health care, tech and professional services. Pharmacist, solutions architect, attorney and data scientist topped our list as the jobs with the highest U.S. median base pay in the December Local Pay Reports.

Lowest Paying Jobs

Finally, here is a list of the 10 lowest paying jobs in the December Local Pay Reports:

Job Title Median Base Pay YoY %
Barista $24,939 3.8%
Cashier $28,328 5.7%
Certified Nursing Assistant $29,243 2.8%
Restaurant Cook $29,439 3.6%
Retail Key Holder $29,516 1.3%
Research Assistant $30,293 2.1%
Bank Teller $31,455 9.2%
Pharmacy Technician $32,340 5.3%
Bartender $32,614 1.7%
Medical Assistant $33,108 0.9%

You can view the full list of highest and lowest paying jobs as of December 2018 here.

How Does it Work?

Like the Know Your Worth tool by Glassdoor, Local Pay Reports incorporate millions of salaries directly collected from U.S. workers by Glassdoor and apply a proprietary machine-learning algorithm to estimate near-real-time trends in local pay for ten U.S. metros and the nation as a whole.

The Local Pay Reports estimate year-over-year growth in median base salaries by job title for 84 jobs across more than 15 job categories including health care, technology, retail and more. The reports also estimate median base pay by industry and employer size and provide a monthly trend of metro-level median base pay for each local market over the past four years.

Our Local Pay Reports fill an important gap in our knowledge about wage growth at the local level for specific jobs. Official BLS “Occupational Employment Statistics” are updated only once per year and use broad occupational groupings that can be confusing for job seekers. Local Pay Reports are released monthly—using the latest data from Glassdoor—and show pay for actual job titles that are easy for non-economists to understand.

Read more in our full methodology and FAQs.

To learn more or subscribe to the monthly email alerts, visit: https://www.glassdoor.com/research/. The Glassdoor Local Pay Reports can be found here: https://www.glassdoor.com/research/local-pay-reports/.

Press inquiries: To speak with the Glassdoor Economic Research team about this month’s report, email pr@glassdoor.com.