Generally, an occupation’s relative earnings rank—its earnings compared with other occupations’ earnings—is consistent from one location to the next. But some occupations buck the trend, with relative earnings that vary dramatically by location.
In a recent BLS study, occupations with the least consistent relative earnings spanned many occupational groups, diverse training requirements, and several different relative earnings deciles. Tire builders, for example, were in the fourth earnings decile nationally, but ranked there in only 6.5 percent of the locations where they were employed.
Other occupations with local relative earnings deciles that matched their national relative earnings deciles in less than 10 percent of locations were musicians and singers, which matched in only 7.4 percent of locations studied; survey researchers, 8.5 percent; landscaping and groundskeeping workers, 8.7 percent; massage therapists, 8.9 percent; roustabouts, 9.0 percent; door-to-door salesworkers, news and street vendors, and related workers, 9.4 percent; music directors and composers, 9.5 percent; and at 9.9 percent, both tax preparers, and gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators.
Reasons for these variations are numerous. In a particular location an occupation might have additional training requirements or more difficult duties. One region might have a concentration of a higher paying occupational subspecialty or a higher paying industry employing workers in a particular occupation. There also could be a recent increase in local demand for workers in an occupation.
These data are based on estimates of occupational earnings produced by the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics program. Occupations were ranked by decile for the nation as a whole and for approximately 390 locations—the top earning 10 percent of occupations were in the first decile and the lowest earning 10 percent were in the tenth decile. Find out more in "Whereabouts and wealth: A study of local earnings and how they vary" by Alan Lacey and Olivia Crosby, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2003.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, When relative wages depend on where you are at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2003/jun/wk1/art05.htm (visited February 29, 2024).