National (US) Pay Trends


The PayScale Index follows the change in wages of employed U.S. workers, revealing trends in compensation for jobs over time. It specifically measures the quarterly change in the total cash compensation of full-time, private industry employees and education professionals nationally, with additional detail on the 32 largest metropolitan areas, 15 industries, 19 job categories and three company sizes.

National Wage Growth, Q1 2020

since last quarter
year over year
since 2006

Highlights Q1 2020

The west coast is home to the top three cities. San Francisco had the strongest nominal wage growth, increasing by 0.5 percent Q/Q and 3.4 percent Y/Y. Seattle came in second, with nominal wages growing 0.6 percent Q/Q and 3.2 percent Y/Y. San Jose came in third, reporting nominal wage growth of 0.7 percent Q/Q and 3.0 percent Y/Y. 

Houston and Miami remain in the bottom two slots. Miami saw Q/Q wage growth of 0.5 percent, slightly higher than Houston’s 0.2 percent Q/Q wage growth. Their Y/Y wage growth were 1.4 and 1.0 percent, respectively. Much of the weak wage growth in Houston can be attributed to slack in the oil and gas industry.

Previously in the middle of the pack in Q4 of 2019, the Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation industry climbs to the number one spot in Q1 of 2020. Nominal wages grew by 0.8 percent Q/Q and 2.9 percent Y/Y in this industry. 

The uptick in growth was in seen in the back half of the quarter. This coincides with numerous white collar businesses instituting work from home policies due to coronavirus. This suggests that the time spent commuting was instead being spent on leisure activities. 

Ranked second to last in Q4 2019, Transportation Jobs now have the fastest nominal wage growth. Nominal wages for these jobs grew 3.2 percent Y/Y and 0.8 percent Q/Q. 

Much of the wage growth in the transportation industry took place in the latter months of the quarter. The coronavirus pandemic has created intense demand for delivered goods and major employers of transportation occupations (such as Amazon) have increased hiring and wages to fulfil shipping demand. 

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Real Wage Index

Since 2006, wages have risen 16 percent overall in the U.S. But when you factor in inflation, “real wages” have actually fallen 9 percent. In other words, the income for a typical worker today buys them less than it did in 2006. The PayScale Real Wage Index incorporates the Consumer Price Index (CPI) into The PayScale Index (which tracks nominal wages) and looks at the buying power of wages for full-time private industry workers in the U.S.

Real Wage Growth, Q1 2020

since last quarter
year over year
since 2006

The PayScale Index: Real Wage Index (US)

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Methodology for The PayScale Index: Trends in Compensation

The PayScale Index tracks quarterly changes in total cash compensation for full-time, private industry employees and education professionals in the United States. In addition to a national index, it includes separate indices for specific industries, metropolitan areas, job categories, and company sizes. The PayScale Index uses 2006 average total cash compensation as a baseline.

See full methodology for compensation trend reports.

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