Not all manufacturing jobs are created equal — and certainly not manufacturing pay. According to a new study released by Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, manufacturing wages differ widely between large cities. Workers in McAllen, Tex., earn an average of roughly $35,000 per year, while those in Silicon Valley earn an average of more than four times that. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 cities with the highest-paid manufacturing jobs.
The Brookings report performed a detailed study of the composition and pay of manufacturing in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan regions. It appears that the biggest determinant of whether manufacturing jobs are high- or low-paying is the type of industry or industries operating in the region. High-tech manufacturing positions, which include the production of computers and electronics, pharmaceuticals and medicines, and aerospace products and parts, pay the highest salaries.
These three categories have the first, second and fourth highest average wages of all types of manufacturing. Computer and electronics manufacturers make an average of more than $95,000, and those in pharmaceuticals production earn an average of more than $100,000. Many of the production jobs in nine of these 10 cities are in one of these three high-tech categories. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif., has large pharmaceutical and computer parts industries.
On top of the region having one or more of these three high-paying industries, there appears to be other drivers in play. Based on the configurations of industries in these cities, Brookings estimated what the average salary should be in these areas. Even then, the actual average manufacturing wages in nine of these regions were 20% higher than their expected wages. In the case of San Jose, the actual average manufacturing salary of $144,899 was more than double the expected wage considering its industry makeup.
The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program’s report, Locating American Manufacturing: Trends in the Geography of Production, provided detailed information on the major types of manufacturing in each of the 100 largest metropolitan regions in the country. Included in this report is the average wage across all industries, the wage for those in all manufacturing jobs, as well as the average wage for those in high-tech manufacturing jobs.
These are the 10 cities where manufacturing pays the highest.
10. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
> Average manufacturing wage: $75,225
> Average wage: $47,015 (34th highest)
> Industry focus: computers and electronics, aerospace
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 10.4% (22nd highest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: n/a
The Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville metro area on the eastern coast of Florida is one of the most high-tech focused large cities in the U.S. More than 10% of the area’s roughly 200,000 jobs are in manufacturing. Close to three-quarters of those jobs are classified as high-tech positions, a higher percentage than any major metro outside of Silicon Valley. The Palm Bay area specializes in information technology positions, with roughly 60% of all manufacturing jobs in computers and electronics.
9. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Tex.
> Average manufacturing wage: $75,288
> Average wage: $57,406 (8th highest)
> Industry focus: fabricated metals, machinery, chemicals
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 8.5% (45th highest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $14,239 (11th highest)
The Houston metropolitan area is by far the largest in the country with high-paying manufacturing jobs. Houston’s manufacturing industry grew nearly 6% between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2011, more than double the nationwide increase. Houston specializes in two major manufacturing industries: chemicals and machinery. It is the only region on this list in which fabricated metals represents a substantial part of the region’s total manufacturing jobs. Although information technology — generally the source of high-paying jobs — is not big in the Houston area, workers in manufacturing still earn $75,288, or more than $14,000 above their expected wages.
8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-Va.-Md.-W.V.
> Average manufacturing wage: $77,530
> Average wage: $68,134 (4th highest)
> Industry focus: computers and electronics, printing and related support
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 1.7% (the lowest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $21,530 (6th highest)
Manufacturing jobs in the U.S. capital region represent just 1.7% of of total employment — the lowest percentage of the 100 largest metropolitan regions. According to Brookings, there is no single particular area of specialty, but computers and electronics make up roughly one in four of the 52,500 production jobs, followed by printing and related support at 13.4%. Across all sectors, earnings are quite high in the area. Average annual wages are $68,134, the fourth-highest average salary in the country. Similarly, manufacturing jobs in the region pay much more than expected. What little manufacturing there is in the region declined by 5.4% between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2011, the third biggest decline among the country’s largest metro regions.
7. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.
> Average manufacturing wage: $79,396
> Average wage: $54,435 (13th highest)
> Industry focus: computers and electronics
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 6.8% (37th lowest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $20,246 (8th highest)
Manufacturing accounts for just 6.8% of jobs in the San Diego metro region, but those workers are paid handsomely, making an average of nearly $80,000 each year. Of the 92,400 manufacturing jobs, information technology is the dominant industry, with 27.9% of all production jobs in computers and electronics. The number of manufacturing jobs in the area has fallen 23.4% since 2000, less than the U.S. decline of 33.2%.
6. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.
> Average manufacturing wage: $82,415
> Average wage: $63,223 (6th highest)
> Industry focus: computers and electronics, fabricated metals, food
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 7.4% (47th lowest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $22,429 (5th highest)
Manufacturing wages in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metropolitan region average $82,415, nearly $20,000 more than the average job in the region. MIT and the dozens other universities in the Boston area help fuel the its substantial information technology industry. Approximately 40% of all manufacturing jobs in the region are classified by Brookings as “very high-tech.” The average earnings for jobs in this category are more than $110,000 annually. Computers and electronics make up roughly 30% of production jobs in the area, with fabricated metals and food accounting for approximately 10% each.
5. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.
> Average manufacturing wage: $87,502
> Average wage: $52,193 (19th highest)
> Industry focus: computers and electronics, pharmaceuticals
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 10.4% (23rd highest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $21,483 (7th highest)
Manufacturing in the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura declined 22.2%, less than the national decline of 33.2%. However, between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2011, those jobs decreased by 3.3%, more than all but a handful of the largest cities in the country. Oxnard’s manufacturing industry specializes in information technology, with computers and electronics representing 22.5% of manufacturing jobs. Pharmaceuticals come in second, at 20.1%. The average manufacturing wage in the region is $87,502 — roughly $35,000 more than the regional average wage.
4. Austin-Round Rock, Tex.
> Average manufacturing wage: $88,026
> Average wage: $50,115 (24th highest)
> Industry focus: computers and electronics
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 6.0% (27th lowest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $23,707 (4th highest)
While manufacturing jobs in the Austin metro region took a severe dive for most of the past decade, they began to rebound in the past few years. Between the first quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2011, manufacturing jobs increased 7.2%, more than two and a half times the national growth rate. Austin is one of the most high-tech specialized cities in the country, with 53.6% of manufacturing jobs classified as high-tech compared to the national average of just 16.1%. Those in high-tech manufacturing jobs in the region are paid an average of $118,416, approximately $68,000 more than the average pay across all jobs in the area.
3. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
> Average manufacturing wage: $91,761
> Average wage: $70,976 (3rd highest)
> Industry focus: computers and electronics, food, pharmaceuticals
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 6.0% (26th lowest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $30,739 (2nd highest)
The San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area is the largest of the four California metro regions to make it on this list. It also has the third-highest average manufacturing wage in the country of more than $90,000. San Francisco manufacturing jobs are diversified across a variety of sectors, but among the largest of these are computers and electronics, at 21.6%, and food and pharmaceuticals, at 11% and 10.3%, respectively. According to Brooking’s assessment of the composition of San Francisco’s industry, workers are getting paid an average of more than $30,000 more than workers in a city with a similar composition.
2. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.
> Average manufacturing wage: $95,507
> Average wage: $83,030 (2nd highest)
> Industry focus: aerospace, machinery, computers and electronics
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 9.0% (36th highest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $28,062 (3rd highest)
The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut metro region, which comprises all of Fairfield country, has a slightly larger manufacturing industry than the national average. These jobs are diversified, with several different areas of specialization, including machinery production and computers and electronics. By far, the largest is the aerospace sector, which accounts for 23.7% of all manufacturing jobs. Of the region’s 36,914 manufacturing positions, 41.8% of them are high-tech positions. The average pay for a job in this category is $114,071.
1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
> Average manufacturing wage: $144,899
> Average wage: $92,574 (the highest)
> Industry focus: computers and electronics
> Share of total jobs in manufacturing: 17.5% (2nd highest)
> Dollars above expected earnings: $72,544 (the highest)
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, better known as Silicon Valley, is the country’s most important high-tech center. Of the region’s 872,000 jobs, 17.5%, or 153,000, are in manufacturing. About 74.6% of these jobs are classified as high-tech positions, making it the most high-tech specialized major city in the United States. Computers and electronics are by far the region’s largest output, accounting for nearly 70% of all manufacturing jobs. Of the largest metro regions in the U.S., San Jose has the highest average pay in every category. The average salary for a high-tech position is $164,796, more than $70,000 more than the average wage across all positions in the area.
-Michael B. Sauter