Most Alabama cities have some of the lowest-paying jobs in America, according to a recently released federal survey, though Huntsville, with its rich aerospace sector, is among the nation’s best.
The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment data, covering wages and salaries in 414 metropolitan areas in the country, finds five Alabama cities rank among the 25 with the lowest pay in the country, according to an analysis by Alabama Today.
The bottom tier of metro areas shows pay is generally worst in Mexican-U.S. border towns, with Brownsville, McAllen and Laredo, Texas, having the nation’s lowest, second-lowest and third-lowest wages.
Gadsden, with a median pay of $26,800, ranks 10th from the bottom in salaries; Daphne, with median pay of $27,090, ranks 12th; and Auburn, with median pay of $27,550, has the nation’s 15th lowest wages.
Dothan and Florence-Muscle Shoals also are in the bottom 25 nationally, while most of Alabama’s seven other metro areas, as defined by the BLS, also are in the nation’s bottom half.
The exceptions are Huntsville, ranking among the South’s best-paid cities, 62nd-highest overall nationally, with a median pay of $38,420; and Birmingham, which has a $34,670 median pay, and ranks 159th-best nationally.
As a state, Alabama ranks sixth from the bottom nationally in pay rates. Mississippi was lowest at $29,000, followed by Arkansas, West Virginia, South Dakota, South Carolina, and then Alabama, at $31,550.
The data are based on the BLS’s annual survey of rates of pay for hundreds of specific professional occupations, ranging from accountants to zoologists, inside 414 employment markets nationwide.
The salary review is different from an assessment of workers’ median incomes because the survey does not account for the prospects that many people hold two or more jobs or have other sources of revenue. This is a study of how wages and salaries compare, per occupation, per city.
The metropolitan areas with the highest pay are all in the nation’s northeast [the Boston-Washington D.C. corridor] and the Northwest. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, Metropolitan Division, home of Silicon Valley, has the highest annual median pay at $58,900.
Nationwide, higher wages are almost exclusively found in bigger metropolitan areas while smaller towns are dominated by relatively lower-paying occupations, and by lower pay across the board.
Huntsville has more than 18,000 engineering jobs of various kinds, the city’s third-most-common broad job category, with a combined median pay of nearly $99,000. Another 12,000 computer-related jobs have a combined median salary of over $88,000. Between them, those two professions make up almost 15 percent of Huntsville’s 213,310 jobs, according to the BLS.
By contrast, Gadsden, with a much smaller employment market, 35,570 jobs overall, is dominated by more than 11,000 factory and office jobs with a combined median pay of a little more than $25,000 a year. There are 3,220 health care jobs with a median pay of $46,840, but not many that pay much more, and none that competes with the salary ranges in Huntsville.