Island wages below national average
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Hawaii's overall weekly wages still aren't keeping up with the price of paradise, but workers in some lower-paying professions are making more than their mainland counterparts, according to the latest federal Bureau of Labor statistics weekly wage survey.
The average weekly wage in Hawaii in the first quarter of last year was $771, which was $114 below the national average for that period, the most recent for which the agency has compiled data.
That ranks Hawaii 27th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a survey released yesterday by the Bureau.
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Hawaii's weekly wages haven't kept up with the state's higher cost of living, newly released federal data indicates, and as a whole are still below the national average.
The average weekly wage in Hawaii was $771, which was $114 below the national average, ranking 27th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a first quarter 2007 survey released yesterday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hawaii's average wage gained 4.2 percent from the first quarter of 2006. It was the second-highest wage increase of any first quarter in the last five years for Hawaii, but it did not keep pace with the rate of inflation.
Consumer prices in Honolulu rose 5 percent during the first half of last year, separate BLS data indicated. Likewise, the current inflation forecast for Hawaii is 5 percent, according to Hawaii Pacific University economics professor Leroy Laney.
Still, on the whole, Hawaii is faring better than it appears from the wage data, said Amar Mann, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"A common interpretation of (the weekly wage data) is that people in Hawaii don't make as much as they do in other parts of the nation, but if we do a job-to-job comparison Hawaii compares favorably to the rest of the nation," Mann said.
In fact, according to other BLS statistics, many workers -- especially those in the hospitality, health care and educational sectors -- will do just as well and in many cases will do better than in other parts of the country, he said.
"A lot of that has to do with the types of occupations and industries that are prevalent in Hawaii," Mann said.
Hawaii has a high concentration of workers in hospitality and other blue-collar service jobs, which bring down the state's average weekly wage, he said.
"In Hawaii, most service workers are doing better the rest of the country, but, let's face it, they aren't making as much as surgeons," Mann said.
For instance, according to the BLS' latest occupation data, the average hourly wage of a hotel clerk in Hawaii was $14.28 per hour versus $9.37 cents for the rest of the nation, he said. Bartenders and cooks also came out on top, Mann said. However, attorneys, who earned $45.36 here, earned less than their counterparts on the mainland, who averaged $54.65 per hour, he said.
"On average, in Honolulu there is a five percent higher wage rate than the rest of the country when you compare job to job," Mann said, citing a BLS national compensation survey from 2006. However, Honolulu does not come out as well compared to other large metro areas, he said.
Honolulu wages rank 176 out of the 328 largest counties nationwide with 75,000 or more jobs. Honolulu County recorded an average weekly wage of $726, a 3.9 percent increase over the same period in 2006.
Although Honolulu's home prices are among the highest in the country, Mann said wages are 14 percent higher in San Francisco, 9 percent higher in New York City, 4 percent higher in Seattle and 3 percent higher in the District of Columbia. Honolulu wasn't really statistically different from Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, Atlanta or Denver, he said.
The District of Columbia topped the BLS's list of average weekly wages, at $1,428, followed by New York at $1,397 and Connecticut at $1,263.