Local Pay Reports: Pay Ticks Up 1.3 Percent for U.S. Workers in May

Dr. Andrew Chamberlain

May 29, 2018

With the nation’s unemployment rate plummeting to an 18-year low of 3.9 percent last month, average wage gains may finally be on the way up for American workers. The latest edition of the Glassdoor Local Pay Reports for May shows median base pay for full-time workers topped $52,000 for the first time this year, rising 1.3 percent from a year ago to $52,070 per year. Although wage growth is still slow historically, the continued upward trend in pay we’re seeing nearly half way through 2018 is a strong sign that average wages may continue to climb as the economy heads into the summer vacation and construction season. Let’s take a closer look at what happened in May with U.S. salaries on Glassdoor.

Pay Gains by Metro

San Francisco once again saw the fastest annual pay gains among the ten metros we track for our Local Pay Reports. Median pay rose 3.5 percent from a year ago in the San Francisco metro to $69,985 per year. The tech hub was followed by the fast-growing northwest city of Seattle (up 2.5 percent to $61,552 per year), New York City (up 2.4 percent to $62,037 per year) and Boston (up 2.0 percent to $59,913 per year). Chicago saw the slowest pay growth among metros in May. Median base pay rose just 1.2 percent from a year ago to $56,362 per year for the Midwest metro. It was followed by Atlanta (up 1.7 percent to $53,706 per year), Los Angeles (up 1.8 percent to $60,554 per year) and Philadelphia (up 1.9 percent to $55,310 per year). Here’s a list of median base pay for all ten metros in our May 2018 Local Pay Reports:
Area Median Base Pay YoY %
U.S. National $52,070 1.3%
San Francisco $69,985 3.5%
Seattle $61,552 2.5%
New York City $62,037 2.4%
Boston $59,913 2.0%
Houston $55,560 1.9%
Washington DC $59,872 1.9%
Philadelphia $55,310 1.9%
Los Angeles $60,554 1.8%
Atlanta $53,706 1.7%
Chicago $56,362 1.2%

Jobs with the Fastest Pay Growth

Among the 84 job titles we track each month, here are the ten jobs with the fastest growth in median base pay for full-time workers from one year ago in May.
Job Title Median Base Pay YoY %
Bank Teller $30,532 6.5%
Truck Driver $54,429 6.0%
Financial Advisor $55,473 5.9%
Tax Manager $98,584 5.2%
Solutions Architect $105,594 4.8%
Web Developer $66,676 4.7%
Security Officer $35,600 4.2%
Business Development Manager $69,637 4.2%
Material Handler $36,305 4.0%
Cashier $28,042 3.9%
There are several themes that stood out among the jobs with the fastest pay growth in May:
  • Several lower-paying positions experienced solid wage growth in May. Cashier (3.9 percent to $28,042 per year), material handler (4 percent to $36,305 per year) and security officer (4.2 percent to $35,600) all appeared on the month’s list of top ten jobs for fastest year-over-year pay growth with pay well above the 1.3 percent national growth. This suggests today’s 18-year-low unemployment rate may be translating into welcome pay gains for these jobs. As fewer candidates compete for jobs at all levels, employers struggling to fill open roles are offering higher pay to attract workers.
  • Several financial jobs experienced strong pay gains in May. Tax managers (up 5.2 percent to $98,584 per year), financial advisors (5.9 percent to $55,473 per year), and bank tellers (6.5 percent to $30,532 per year) are all experiencing pay growth well above the U.S. average. In the wake of the recent federal tax cuts, financial advisors who can help clients understand and take full advantage of new tax changes are in high demand.
  • Solutions architect experienced strong pay gains in May, rising 4.8 percent from year ago to $105,594 per year. That’s remarkable growth for what is already one of the highest-paying tech roles we track in our Local Pay Reports. As high-level members of software engineering teams, solutions architects are in demand among companies looking to scale their tech infrastructure and maintain data security.

Lowest Pay-Growth Jobs

Here are the ten jobs with the lowest wage growth in May, compared to one year ago:
Job Title Median Base Pay YoY %
Loan Officer $44,592 -2.8%
Communications Manager $65,720 -2.2%
Insurance Agent $42,045 -1.6%
Physical Therapist $73,406 -1.1%
Research Assistant $30,410 -0.8%
Professor $88,269 -0.8%
Bartender $31,860 -0.6%
Project Manager $73,295 -0.3%
Producer $52,454 -0.2%
UX Designer $76,799 -0.2%
Among the jobs with the lowest pay growth in May, loan officer topped the list with a 2.8 percent drop in median base pay from a year ago, down to $44,592 per year. Wage declines for loan officers as well as insurance agents (-1.6 percent to $42,045 per year) may reflect the increasing ability of software and automation tools to do tasks traditionally done by these workers. Other roles experiencing slow pay growth include communications manager (-2.2 percent to $65,720 per year), physical therapist (-1.1 percent to $73,406) and research assistant (-0.8 percent to $30,410 per year). 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 May Local Pay Reports:
Job Title Median Base Pay YoY %
Pharmacist $127,800 2.2%
Solutions Architect $105,594 4.8%
Attorney $100,392 3.0%
Tax Manager $98,584 5.2%
Data Scientist $95,278 0.2%
Product Manager $93,694 2.3%
Professor $88,269 -0.8%
Software Engineer $86,429 1.7%
Systems Engineer $79,348 1.9%
Process Engineer $78,119 0.7%
Once again, three fields dominated the highest paying jobs in May: Health care, tech, and professional services. Pharmacist, solutions architect, attorney, tax manager, and data scientist topped our list as the jobs with the highest U.S. median base pay in the May Local Pay Reports.

Lowest Paying Jobs

Finally, here is a list of the ten lowest paying jobs in the May Local Pay Reports:  
Job Title Median Base Pay YoY %
Barista $24,493 3.4%
Cashier $28,042 3.9%
Restaurant Cook $28,722 1.5%
Certified Nursing Assistant $29,071 2.6%
Retail Key Holder $29,264 3.2%
Research Assistant $30,410 -0.8%
Bank Teller $30,532 6.5%
Pharmacy Technician $30,648 2.9%
Bartender $31,860 -0.6%
Server $33,355 1.3%
You can view the full list of highest and lowest paying jobs as of May 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. Monthly Jobs Report Expectations The latest jobs report from the federal government is due out on Friday. This month, we expect to see 182,000 new jobs created and an unemployment rate steady at 3.9 percent in May. See our full analysis for more commentary and predictions here. 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 Dr. Andrew Chamberlain about this month’s report, email pr@glassdoor.com. Follow him on Twitter: @adchamberlain.

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