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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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