Occupational Wages

How are we doing?

Median Wage for All Occupations (2021)

Occupational Wages Fuel Gauge 2021

Tucson’s median wage for all occupations was $38,050 in 2021, which ranked eighth among the 12 western Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Tucson’s median wage was $7,700 below the U.S. median. Denver posted the highest wage among the 12 MSAs at $49,210. Architecture and engineering occupations paid the most in Tucson, at $94,240 while food preparation and serving occupations paid the least, at $28,900. Tucson’s median wage has risen slowly since the end of the 2008-2009 recession, at 1.9% per year until 2021 when it declined by 2.2%. The median occupational wage national increased by 9.1% between 2020 and 2021.

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 workflow and organization.

How do we compare?

The five highest-paying occupations in the Tucson MSA in 2021 were architecture and engineering; computer and mathematical; management; health care practitioners; and business and financial occupations. The five lowest-paying occupations were healthcare support; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; sales and related; personal care and service; 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 than it is for the lowest, with the notable exception of the architecture and engineering occupation where Tucson’s median wage was nearly $15,000 higher.

What are the key trends?

Since 2001, the median wage in the Tucson MSA has increased at an average annual rate of 2.5% per year, which was slightly faster than the national growth rate of 2.3% per year. However, since 2009 (the end of the last recession) Tucson’s median wage has risen slowly, at just 1.9% per year through 2020. In 2021, the median wage in Arizona and Tucson declined by approximately 2.0% from 2020, while the nation’s median wage increased by a whopping 9.1%. Tucson’s decline in median wages was driven in part by over a 9.0% drop in the median wage for management occupations as well as those in the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupation. The food preparations occupation posted over a 10% increase in the median wage national, in the state of Arizona, and in Tucson.

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 the workers earning wages above the median and half earning wages below the median.