A federal agency's survey, however, does not take into account cost of living
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 23, 2010
The average pay for Honolulu employees last year earned the city a top-20 ranking in a survey of the nation's largest 77 metropolitan areas.
Workers in the construction trades and service industries were paid the most relative to their counterparts on the mainland, according to the report published yesterday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Workers overall on Oahu earned an average of 106 percent of the national average, up 1 percentage point from 2008, the report said. The increase elevated workers here to the 14th highest among the 77 metro areas from 17th highest in 2008.
However, the study did not make adjustments for cost of living. The expense of living in Honolulu puts residents at a relative disadvantage financially to many mainland cities where it is cheaper to live.
"I think the reason a number of families have people working two to three jobs is at least in part related to the high cost of living here," said Howard Garval, CEO of Child & Family Service, Hawaii's oldest and largest private, nonprofit human services provider.
Hawaii's gasoline and electricity costs are the highest in the country, while Oahu has among the most expensive home prices and rental rates.
"There are even people who are homeless and working several jobs who can't make enough to get by," Garval said. "One positive thing is that over the last year or so seems to be growing momentum to build affordable housing," he added.
Topping the list of cities in the BLS report was the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area, with an average wage that was 120 percent of the national average. At the bottom of the list was the Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas, metro area, where workers earned 79 percent of the national average last year.
BY THE NUMBERSTop five, bottom five pay as percentage of national average)
1. San Jose-San Frandisco-Oakland 120%
73. Knoxville, Tenn. 88%
The bureau report didn't include actual salaries, but in a study earlier this year the agency reported Honolulu's 2009 average annual wage to be $43,760.
The new report separated occupations into nine broad categories, encompassing hundreds of individual job titles. The best-ranking category was services, which includes nurses, law enforcement officials, food and beverage workers, housekeepers and embalmers. Workers in the services category earned 116 percent of the national average.
Construction workers were second at 113 percent. Those working in "production," which includes machinists, printing press operators and welders, were next at 112 percent.
Other sectors included installation, maintenance and repair, 107 percent; management, business and finance, 107 percent; professional and related occupations, 105 percent; sales, 104 percent; office administration and support, 96 percent; and transportation, 95 percent.