Inflation outpaces isle wages
Workers in the leisure and hospitality fields earn more than their national counterparts
Workers in Hawaii's lower-paying service industries continue to lead the nation in wages, but their pay hasn't kept up with the cost of living.
Despite the high cost of living in Hawaii, the state's average weekly wage ranks 28th nationally at $669, more than $100 below the national average.
Honolulu, with weekly wages listed at $693, came in 173 out of 332 counties surveyed in the nation.
Hawaii has more leisure and hospitality jobs than it can fill, but there are fewer high-paying professional jobs than in other regions, which bring down the state's average wage. Those are some of the findings of a survey released yesterday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which analyzed first quarter 2005 wages.
Overall, workers in New York County, N.Y. collected the highest average weekly pay in the nation at $2,025, $1,356 more than their Hawaii counterparts. Only 12 states, including the District of Columbia, had wages exceeding the U.S. average of $775. Workers in Cameron County, Texas collected the lowest weekly pay, averaging $460 a week.
"Hawaii has a higher concentration of leisure & hospitality jobs, which average lower pay than other industry sectors --- within that category however, Hawaii workers earn 43.1 percent more than the national average," said Charlotte Yee, a regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who herself is a Hawaii expatriate who moved to San Francisco for a better job.
More than 22 percent of Hawaii's private sector jobs are in the leisure and hospitality industry, which posted 4.4 percent average weekly wage growth to $448, Yee said.
Weekly wages for the U.S. leisure and hospitality industry, which comprised 11.4 percent of private sector jobs nationwide, were nearly flat at $313 versus $311 the year prior, she said.
Average weekly wages grew 2 percent over the 12-month period ending March 2005.
The average hourly wage of a hotel clerk in Hawaii, which ranges from $14.73 to $15.03, puts workers in that industry at the top of the nation.
In Hawaii, wages after adjustment for inflation actually fell, said Yee, adding that Honolulu consumer prices rose 3.3 percent in 2004, and 3.1 percent for the 12-month period ending June 2005.
For most Hawaii hotel workers, the wage increases haven't kept up with the cost of living, said Gloria Bautista, who has worked for Hilton Hawaiian Village for the past 34 years.
"We have higher wages than the mainland hotel workers, but the cost of living is much higher here," Bautista said. "Many of our members are working two and three jobs just to make ends meet."
Andy Lee, spokesman for the hotel worker's union, Unite Here Local 5, said wages in Hawaii's hospitality industry have failed to keep up with the cost of living and that workers plan to ask for pay increases in their upcoming contract negotiations.
"When we negotiated the last set of contracts right after 9/11, I don't think anyone foresaw how strong our Waikiki hotel business would be today or how much our housing prices would rise," Lee said.