By James Clary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released the National Compensation Survey, which provides detailed earning data across several occupations and employment categories for 75 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the United States. This has generated headlines detailing the benefits of living in coastal vs. non coastal areas based on the nominal wage earned in various occupations. This analysis fails to measure the impact of cost of living, as the Labor Department neither produces nor endorses any cost of living comparisons. Using cost comparison information from the Council for Community and Economic Research suggests there are significant higher price levels in coastal cities, and that while the levels of pay in cities such as San Francisco and New York are much higher than the national average, the high wages are severely tempered by the high living costs.
Hampton Roads has a low wage level, with regional hourly wages only equaling 92% of the total occupational average of the United States in July 2010. The report shows installation, maintenances, and repair employment as the only occupation category that was close to the national average with wages at 97% of the national level. This is exacerbated by Hampton Roads Cost of Living that was 11.7% above the national average in 2010. High living costs typically coincide with areas that have high levels of regional amenities, including major cities and coastal areas.
Please Note: Due to budget cuts at the federal level, there are not further plans for the BLS to conduct the national compensation survey in the future.
For more wage comparison from across the U.S., click on the map below to review a Wall Street Journal blog article on the topic. (Map courtesy of Wall Street Journal.)