Occupational Wages

How are we doing?

Median Wage for All Occupations (2016)

Tucson’s median wage for all occupations was $33,970 in 2016, which ranked above only San Antonio and El Paso, among the 12 western Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Tucson’s median wage was 8.3% below the U.S. median. Denver posted the highest wage among the 12 MSAs at $42,140. Architecture and Engineering occupations paid the most in Tucson, at $87,400 while food preparation and serving occupations paid the least, at $19,730. Tucson’s median wage has risen slowly since the end of the Great Recession (in 2009), at 1.0% per year. That was well below the Arizona and national growth rates.

Why is it important?

Occupational wages tell workers which occupations provide the largest payoff, which can influence employee residential location decisions, as well as educational choices. Wages also provide firms with important (although incomplete) information regarding labor costs. This can influence firm location choices, as well as decisions regarding work flow and organization.

How do we compare?

The five highest paying occupations in the Tucson MSA in 2016 were architecture and engineering; management; computer and mathematical; legal occupations; and health care practitioners. The five lowest paying occupations were sales; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; farming, fishing, and forestry; personal care; and food preparation and serving occupations. The occupational wage gap between Tucson and the U.S. is generally much larger for the higher paying occupations that it is for the lowest.

What are the key trends?

Since 2001, the median wage in the Tucson MSA has increased at an average annual rate of 2.3% per year, which was slightly faster than the national growth rate of 2.1% per year. However, since 2009 (the end of the Great Recession) Tucson’s median wage has risen slowly, at just 1.0% per year. That rate is well below the Arizona (1.4% per year) rate and the national (1.6% per year) rate.

How is it measured?

Occupational wages are measured before taxes and do not include fringe benefits. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects survey data on wages by occupation and industry and reports this data annually as Occupational Employment Statistics (OES). The OES data include detailed employment and wage estimates for over 800 occupations and industries. The median wage identifies the midpoint of the wage distribution, with half of workers earning wages above the median and half earning wages below the median.