Local Wages Still Struggle To Compete

Photo by Jeremy Schultz Photo by Jeremy Schultz


Wages in southwestern Pennsylvania have risen steadily in recent years. But the average local wage  is lower in many occupations compared to peer regions.

Average annual wages in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area trail  the national average and benchmark average in all but four of 25 major occupation categories in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Wages are a significant factor in a region’s economic competitiveness. Below average wages  make it more difficult to attract and retain qualified workers, particularly in competitive fields.

Wages in Pittsburgh are competitive in a handful of occupations, most of which are high-paying jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree.

Family doctors and general practitioners, for example, earned an average $232,190 in the Pittsburgh MSA last year —  fifth highest among Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions. Local financial managers earned $155,440 last year, third best among benchmark regions.  Elementary school teachers and production managers also exceeded  both the benchmark and national averages. Civil engineering wages exceeded the benchmark average, but trailed the U.S. average.

Regional wages in the remaining 20 occupations lagged the benchmark or national averages and in most cases, both. This included many technology-related occupations, such as computer programmers, whose annual wage fell 2.8 percent to $72,990,  third lowest among benchmark regions and beneath the national average.

Other high-demand occupations, such as registered nurses and mechanical engineers, took home wages below both  averages.  Local wages not requiring a four-year degree generally trailed both averages. 

Wages are not the only factor when workers decide where to live.  

“When (students) first graduate from college and for about four or five years after that, salary is at the top of their list in deciding where they are going to work,” said Linda Topoleski, vice president, workforce operations and programs, Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

“But once they get into their late 20s, early 30s, other things start to rise to the top, like cost of living. At that point, we become a lot more competitive because our cost of living is comparatively lower, particularly in the markets that we target where the cost of living is higher and there is a high saturation of talent—New York, Philly, Boston, D.C.”