Cities With the Highest Wages for New Hires

Business woman
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As the U.S. economy enters a new phase in its recovery from COVID-19, businesses are adding new positions faster than they can fill them. A combination of rapidly expanding job openings, a smaller labor force, and more generous unemployment benefits is pushing wages higher, especially in fields like leisure and hospitality that historically have some of the lowest wages for new workers. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau on new hires, average monthly earnings was $3,266 in 2020—a figure that varies widely by industry, job, and location.

New hires in the information sector—which includes many of the country’s computer programming and technology jobs—were paid the most, at $7,060 per month or nearly $85,000 annually. In comparison, all information workers (including new hires and existing employees) were paid an average monthly wage of $8,825. New employees in the mining, oil and gas, and utilities sectors also commanded strong wages when compared to new hires in other fields.

Despite experiencing strong wage growth at the start of 2021, new hires in accommodation and food services have historically earned the lowest average wages, at just $1,458 per month or about $17,500 annually. Unsurprisingly, industries with low wages overall also pay new hires less, but the gap between new hire pay and all worker pay ranges from a low of approximately 11% in the agricultural sector to over 50% in fields like management, education, and the arts.
Information is the best-paying sector for new hires

In addition to occupation and industry, location has significant direct and indirect effects on real wages. New employees in certain areas might command different wages for a variety of reasons, but differences in cost of living affect how comfortable it is to live on a given wage. When taking cost of living into account, new hires in Washington and Massachusetts earned the most in 2020, at $4,045 and $3,793 per month respectively. Other states with high adjusted wages for new hires included New York and Connecticut. Conversely, workers in Montana, Hawaii, and Idaho earned the least after adjusting for living costs.

New hires in WA and MA earned the most in 2020

To find the metropolitan areas with the highest wages for new hires, researchers at Self Financial analyzed the latest data on new hires from the U.S. Census Bureau, cost-of-living data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and home price data from Zillow. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the cost-of-living adjusted monthly earnings for new hires in 2020. Researchers also calculated the unadjusted monthly earnings for new hires, the unadjusted monthly earnings across all workers, median home price, and cost of living.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

  • Small metros: 100,000–349,999
  • Midsize metros: 350,000–999,999
  • Large metros: 1,000,000 or more
Here are the metros with the highest wages for new hires.
The best-paying small and midsize metros for new hires

The Best-Paying Large Metros for New Hires

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA
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15. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,408
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,336
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $4,998
  • Median home price: $280,038
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -2.1%
Pittsburgh, PA
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14. Pittsburgh, PA

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,443
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,181
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $4,776
  • Median home price: $185,063
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -7.6%
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN
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13. Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,449
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,256
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $4,593
  • Median home price: $320,818
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -5.6%
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
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12. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,463
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $4,000
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $5,864
  • Median home price: $563,149
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +15.5%
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC
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11. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,535
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,337
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $4,561
  • Median home price: $281,335
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -5.6%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
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10. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,549
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,592
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $5,284
  • Median home price: $289,582
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +1.2%
Raleigh-Cary, NC
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9. Raleigh-Cary, NC

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,571
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,432
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $4,891
  • Median home price: $327,048
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -3.9%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
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8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,594
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $4,219
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $5,566
  • Median home price: $498,649
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +17.4%
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX
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7. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,614
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,675
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $5,577
  • Median home price: $241,698
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +1.7%
Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT
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6. Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,637
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,728
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $5,666
  • Median home price: $274,468
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +2.5%
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
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5. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,649
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,802
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $5,102
  • Median home price: $517,395
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +4.2%
Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX
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4. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $3,957
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $3,929
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $5,550
  • Median home price: $441,931
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -0.7%
San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA
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3. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $4,358
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $5,862
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $8,583
  • Median home price: $1,235,705
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +34.5%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
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2. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $4,541
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $5,199
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $7,058
  • Median home price: $627,290
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +14.5%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
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1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (adjusted): $5,339
  • Average monthly earnings for new hires (actual): $6,764
  • Average monthly earnings across all workers (actual): $11,643
  • Median home price: $1,364,273
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +26.7%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The locations with the highest wages for new hires include both expensive tech hubs and more affordable locales. While the San Jose, Seattle, and San Francisco metro areas are some of the most expensive metros in the country, new hires earn enough to make up for it, making these three metros the best-paying for new hires. New hires in the Austin metro area earn a similar actual wage to new hires in Boston, but the relative affordability of Austin means that their adjusted earnings are over $500 per month, or $6,000 per year, more.

To find the locations with the highest wages for new hires, researchers at Self analyzed the latest data on new hires from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) dataset, cost-of-living data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Regional Price Parity dataset, and home price data from Zillow’s Zillow Home Value Index.

The researchers ranked metro areas according to the cost-of-living adjusted average earnings for new hires in 2020. Researchers also used the LEHD data to calculate the unadjusted average earnings for new hires and the unadjusted average earnings across all workers. Due to differences in data release dates, some portions of the analysis cover different time periods. Notably, national-level industry data is from the last quarter of 2019; whereas, the rest of the analysis uses data from the first two quarters of 2020.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

  • Small metros: 100,000–349,999
  • Midsize metros: 350,000–999,999
  • Large metros: 1,000,000 or more
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Written on July 14, 2021
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings. Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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