Friday’s Jobs Report: Which Jobs are Seeing Wage Growth?


August 29, 2016

Today’s labor market is in terrific shape by most measures. However, one area where economists aren’t seeing the gains we expected is wage growth.

With many cities facing 3 percent unemployment rates and a near-record number of unfilled job openings, why aren’t wages growing faster? Are they growing for some jobs but not others—and if so, why?

In this post, I’ll provide insight into the wage growth picture today, including a look into what I’m seeing in Glassdoor salaries. But first, here is what we’ll be watching for in Friday’s latest monthly job report from the federal government:

  • 172,000 new jobs added to nonfarm payrolls in August.
  • Unemployment rate down to 4.8 percent.
  • Average hourly wages up 2.7 percent from one year ago.
  • Labor force participation rate down slightly to 62.6 percent.

Taking Stock of Slow Wage Growth
When thinking about wage growth, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many different ways of measuring it. There isn’t one “true” statistic that tells us everything we want to know. Instead, there are many diverse measures, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

The measure of wage growth most analysts focus on is change in average hourly wages from the monthly jobs report. By that measure, here’s a picture of wage growth over the past several years:

Annual Percent Change in Average Hourly Wages (Monthly Jobs Report)

BLSgraph

During normal times—such as before the last recession—this measure of wage growth hovered around 3 to 3.5 percent. At that rate, American wages would double once every generation or about every 20 to 25 years.

More recently wages have been growing slowly: About 2.1 percent during 2014, 2.3 percent in 2015, and 2.5 percent so far in 2016. At these lower rates, it will take American workers roughly 10 years longer to double their wages—a big slowdown in the nation’s march toward prosperity.

However, there is a problem with only focusing on this bird’s eye view. Looking only at average pay growth for the nation as a whole hides huge diversity in today’s labor market. There isn’t just one U.S. labor market with one wage rate. Labor markets are highly localized: wages are set for particular job titles, in particular cities, at a particular point in time.

One advantage of Glassdoor salary data—from millions of anonymous salary reports left by employees on Glassdoor—is that we can see far more diversity in wage growth than is apparent from the overall averages in the monthly BLS jobs report.

The Wage Growth Picture from Glassdoor
To illustrate this, we pulled together data on average Glassdoor salary growth over the past year for a large number of job titles.[1] Across the roughly 200 job titles we explored, average salary growth from one year ago was about 2.8 percent—very similar to what BLS reports in the monthly jobs report.

However, beneath that average is huge diversity in wage growth by job title. Below is a picture of the distribution (that is, a “histogram”) of annual salary growth in Glassdoor data by job title.

As you can see, the data follow a classic bell-shaped pattern centered on 2.8 percent. However, many job titles in the right tail of the distribution are experiencing double-digit salary gains of over 10 percent. By contrast, many job titles toward the left tail are experiencing average salary losses from a year ago.

Distribution of Annual Percent Salary Growth by Job Title, 2015-2016

histogram

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research)

Jobs With Healthy Wage Growth
Below are a few sample job titles with salaries that are growing well above the national average.

What do they have in common? They are all highly skilled. Many are in the tech, finance and health care industries. And many are clustered in today’s fast-growing metro areas—not in rural areas. These are the jobs that are experiencing very health wage growth in America today.

Sample Job Titles with High Salary Growth on Glassdoor

Job Title Average 2015 Salary Average 2016 Salary Annual Salary Growth
Sales Manager $68,366 $77,087 12.8%
Operations $54,117 $60,646 12.1%
Certified Nursing Assistant $30,519 $33,883 11.0%
Strategist $66,747 $72,117 8.0%
Financial Advisor $54,260 $58,498 7.8%
Emergency Medical Technician $29,941 $31,975 6.8%
Solutions Architect $115,701 $123,273 6.5%
Front-End Developer $67,274 $71,297 6.0%

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research)

By contrast, below are a few sample job titles with salaries that are growing at about the national average of 2-3 percent.

Many (although not all) of these jobs have lower skill requirements that the above list. They represent a more diverse array of industries and locations than today’s fastest growing salaries. In many ways, this list of job titles looks more representative of the broader U.S. labor market in which most Americans work. It’s no surprise salaries are growing close to the national average in these jobs.

Sample Job Titles with Middle-of-the-Road Salary Growth on Glassdoor

Job Title Average 2015 Salary Average 2016 Salary Annual Salary Growth
Data Analyst $63,323 $65,201 3.0%
Software Development Engineer $113,631 $116,940 2.9%
Customer Service Representative $27,831 $28,608 2.8%
Elementary School Teacher $47,890 $49,204 2.7%
Electrical Engineer $80,425 $82,565 2.7%
Bank Teller $24,583 $25,234 2.6%
Product Management $147,067 $150,922 2.6%
Accountant $54,759 $56,104 2.5%

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research)

Jobs with Salaries On the Decline
One disturbing finding that’s hidden by focusing on average U.S. wage growth is that some jobs today are actually seeing year-over-year declining wages. Below are a few sample job titles for which average salaries on Glassdoor in 2016 came in below our average 2015 salaries.

Sample Job Titles with Negative Salary Growth on Glassdoor

Job Title Average 2015 Salary Average 2016 Salary Annual Salary Growth
Forklift Operator $28,312 $28,139 -0.6%
Field Service Engineer $62,884 $62,413 -0.7%
Copywriter $59,907 $59,121 -1.3%
Delivery Driver $34,913 $34,408 -1.4%
Retail Sales Consultant $31,230 $30,619 -2.0%
Property Manager $47,658 $46,289 -2.9%
Merchandiser $35,433 $34,389 -2.9%
Relationship Manager $67,461 $63,398 -6.0%

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research)

By contrast with the above jobs, these roles with falling average pay tend to be lower-skilled jobs. Some of them, such as forklift operator and copywriter, are disproportionately found in declining U.S. industries like manufacturing and print media. Many are at risk of growing automation and outsourcing such as merchandiser or property manager.

In general, wage growth today is performing very poorly for workers in these positions—something that’s often overlooked in abstract debates about wage growth in America today.

To speak with Dr. Andrew Chamberlain about this month’s jobs report or labor market trends, contact pr [at] glassdoor [dot] com. For the latest economics and labor market updates, subscribe to email alerts here and follow @adchamberlain.

[1] Methodology: Reported in average annualized base pay and based on at least 200 salary reports per job title shared by full-time, U.S.-based employees on Glassdoor between 1/1/16-8/21/16 (for average 2016 salaries) and an identical period of 1/1/15-8/21/15 (for 2015 salaries). For this analysis, we exclude outlier salaries below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and above $250,000 per year. This data takes into account job title normalization that groups similar job titles.