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Regional Wage Comparisons

By Luke Greiner
November 2015

Across the State of Minnesota wages vary within the same occupations thanks to a diverse distribution of industries across the six Planning Regions of Minnesota. Most people are familiar with the common assumption that jobs in the Twin Cities Metro Area pay more than the same job in Greater Minnesota, and for the most part that is a correct assumption. Figure 1 illustrates the difference in median wages for all occupations in each of the planning regions. The Seven County Twin City Metro has the highest median wages at $20.49 an hour while Northwest Minnesota has the lowest at $15.42.


Figure 1: Map-Planning Area Median Wages, 2015


Although Greater Minnesota has lower median wages than the Metro, each region's median wage for all occupations combined remains above the minimum cost of living wage. The largest margin is found in Southeast Minnesota where the median wage is 22 percent or $3.22 an hour higher than the minimum hourly wage needed to support the typical Minnesota family of three. Central Minnesota comes in last with a slim 4.2 percent or $0.67 an hour margin above the $15.99 minimum cost of living wage (see Figure 2).


Figure 2: Median Wages Compared to Cost of Living


While the Twin Cities Metro might appear to have better wages across the board, it's important to understand the implications that occupational and industry densities have, which ultimately affect wage statistics. While each planning region contains at least one metropolitan area, the Minneapolis- St. Paul Planning Area is dominated by a metropolis that contains roughly 62 percent of statewide employment. This concentration also has a larger share of jobs that have naturally higher wages.

Broad wage comparisons between a particular region and the State of Minnesota provide the foundation of typical wage deviations. For instance, it's normal for jobs in Northwest Minnesota to pay 83 percent of the median wage of the state, while jobs in the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul Region typically pay 10 percent more than the Minnesota median (see Table 1).


Table 1: Planning Area Median Wages All Occupations

Region

Median Wage

Relative to State Median

Minnesota

$18.65

100%

Minneapolis - St. Paul

$20.49

110%

Southeast

$17.74

95%

Central

$16.66

89%

Northeast

$16.58

89%

Southwest

$15.48

83%

Northwest

$15.42

83%

Source: DEED, Occupational Employment Statistics


Although general statements of wages can be made using the median for all occupations, the wages for specific jobs in each region of Minnesota provide a better explanation. The largest deviations above and below the typical difference from the state median can provide insight on issues ranging from demand to retention.

In Central Minnesota the median wage for all jobs is about 11 percent less than the state. However, security guards earn a median wage that's nearly double the state's median. The five occupations with the highest median wage compared to the state could be inflated for numerous reasons including; scarcity of workers with the specific skills needed, employment growth faster than the local supply rate, or even the effects of remote work locations. Lawyers have the largest negative pay gap, with a median wage $17.60 an hour less than the state's median. Considerations for the occupations that have the lowest median wage compared to the state could be lack of demand or business hierarchies locating the most experienced or high level executives in the occupational group in larger metropolitan areas (see Table 2).


Table 2: Central Minnesota's Top and Bottom Five Occupations with Largest Wage Deviations From State of Minnesota

SOC Code

Occupational Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Wage Difference from Minnesota

Percent of Minnesota Wage

0

Total, All Occupations

263,270

$16.66

-$1.99

89%

339032

Security Guards

710

$24.93

$11.32

183%

291151

Nurse Anesthetists

60

$86.67

$10.28

113%

533031

Driver/Sales Workers

670

$17.17

$7.30

174%

434011

Brokerage Clerks

90

$27.96

$6.76

132%

472051

Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers

430

$28.25

$6.62

131%

119121

Natural Sciences Managers

60

$39.51

-$12.61

76%

111011

Chief Executives

770

$65.77

-$14.89

82%

113031

Financial Managers

840

$39.32

-$16.06

71%

413031

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Sales Agents

490

$16.97

-$17.51

49%

231011

Lawyers

480

$36.54

-$17.60

67%

Source: DEED, Occupational Employment Statistics


Northeast Minnesota's unique timber economy shines through with paper goods machine operators, among the top five occupations with the largest deviation above the state median. Four of the five lowest compensated occupations compared to the total state are in management. Producers and directors also fall far short of the median wage for Minnesota, earning a median wage that's $14.35 less that the state (see Table 3).


Table 3: Northeast Minnesota's Top and Bottom Five Occupations with Largest Wage Deviations From State of Minnesota

SOC Code

Occupational Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Wage Difference from Minnesota

Percent of Minnesota Wage

0

Total, All Occupations

141,800

$16.58

-$2.07

89%

291151

Nurse Anesthetists

100

$93.18

$16.79

122%

519196

Paper Goods Machine Setters, Operators

250

$28.91

$10.19

154%

537121

Tank Car, Truck, and Ship Loaders

50

$25.52

$9.00

154%

519121

Coating, Painting, and Spraying Machine Operators

140

$24.16

$6.73

139%

333021

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

90

$41.30

$6.71

119%

272012

Producers and Directors

50

$17.65

-$14.35

55%

113021

Computer and Information Systems Managers

210

$43.78

-$15.41

74%

112022

Sales Managers

280

$34.70

-$17.44

67%

112021

Marketing Managers

90

$37.34

-$20.85

64%

111011

Chief Executives

330

$59.22

-$21.44

73%

Source: DEED, Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)


In the Northwestern region of Minnesota where most jobs pay $3.23 less an hour, health care careers pay off in a big way. Three of the top five occupations with the largest median pay advantage over statewide median wages are in the healthcare practitioner or technician category. CEO pay has the largest negative gap in median wages compared to the state, even with a median hourly wage about 3.2 times more than the median for all occupations in the Northwest (see Table 4).


Table 4: Northwest Minnesota's Top and Bottom Five Occupations with Largest Wage Deviations From State of Minnesota

SOC Code

Occupational Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Wage Difference from Minnesota

Percent of Minnesota Wage

0

Total, All Occupations

203,060

$15.42

-3.23

83%

291151

Nurse Anesthetists

70

$86.56

$10.17

113%

132081

Tax Examiners, Collectors, and Revenue Agents

50

$35.22

$8.59

132%

291062

Family and General Practitioners

190

$94.23

$8.54

110%

291021

Dentists, General

90

$93.19

$6.38

107%

419022

Real Estate Sales Agents

140

$24.60

$6.20

134%

413031

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Sales Agents

110

$19.56

-$14.92

57%

414011

Sales Reps., Wholesale and Manufacturing Products

140

$29.83

-$15.54

66%

231011

Lawyers

200

$35.80

-$18.34

66%

112021

Marketing Managers

170

$38.85

-$19.34

67%

111011

Chief Executives

730

$49.74

-$30.92

62%

Source: DEED, Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)


The median wage for all jobs in Southeast Minnesota is the highest in Greater Minnesota, with a gap of only $0.91 an hour compared to the states median. The well-compensated nurse anesthetist occupation in Southeast Minnesota provides the largest median wage advantage, typically paying almost $15 more an hour than the statewide median wage. The largest negative median wage deviations include a diverse range of occupations ranging from psychologists and crane and tower operators to writer and authors.


Table 5: Southeast Minnesota's Top and Bottom Five Occupations with Largest Wage Deviations From State of Minnesota

SOC Code

Occupational Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Wage Difference from Minnesota

Percent of Minnesota Wage

0

Total, All Occupations

253,990

$17.74

-0.91

95%

291151

Nurse Anesthetists

120

$91.38

$14.99

120%

299099

Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other

120

$42.86

$12.97

143%

194021

Biological Technicians

600

$35.15

$11.98

152%

259099

Education, Training, and Library Workers, All Other

150

$32.65

$8.59

136%

499062

Medical Equipment Repairers

240

$34.26

$7.66

129%

231011

Lawyers

420

$40.39

-$13.75

75%

119141

Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers

250

$12.60

-$14.01

47%

273043

Writers and Authors

120

$11.73

-$15.22

44%

537021

Crane and Tower Operators

70

$15.57

-$16.11

49%

193039

Psychologists, All Other

70

$26.46

-$21.93

55%

Source: DEED, Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)


The large presence of food manufacturing in Southwestern Minnesota certainly correlates with the pay advantage for food batchmaker jobs in the region with median wages 35 percent higher than the state median. Chief Executives and optometrists have the largest negative deviation from the state median, both paying over $20 less an hour in Southwest Minnesota.


Table 6: Southwest Minnesota's Top and Bottom Five Occupations with Largest Wage Deviations From State of Minnesota

SOC Code

Occupational Title

Estimated Regional Employment

Median Hourly Wage

Wage Difference from Minnesota

Percent of Minnesota Wage

0

Total, All Occupations

177,030

$15.48

-3.17

83%

291021

Dentists, General

110

$93.63

$6.82

108%

513092

Food Batchmakers

430

$20.43

$5.33

135%

112031

Public Relations Managers

50

$52.36

$4.69

110%

211023

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

110

$27.04

$4.52

120%

211093

Social and Human Service Assistants

1,330

$19.55

$4.35

129%

413031

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Sales Agents

280

$18.22

-$16.26

53%

472211

Sheet Metal Workers

70

$17.17

-$16.75

51%

192031

Chemists

50

$28.23

-$16.80

63%

291041

Optometrists

50

$31.13

-$20.74

60%

111011

Chief Executives

550

$53.14

-$27.52

66%

Source: DEED, Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)


While each region offers a range of occupations with higher than typical wages, the largest deviations above statewide medians appear to be concentrated. Forty-four percent of the top five paying jobs from the regional tables are in the health care practitioner and technical support occupations. Greater Minnesota also has a pattern in occupations with lower median wages. Forty-four percent of occupations listed in the tables with lowest median wages compared to state medians are in management.

Regional wage comparisons are just one of the many ways to examine how the unique regional economies of Minnesota affect its workers and their families.

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