Nearly 147 million Americans were in the workforce in 2019. Among all workers, including those working part time, the annual median wage was $39,810. While workers’ incomes depend on their education level, career field and personal aptitudes, another major factor determining income is the area where they live and work.
Because of factors like the cost of living and the financial resources of companies in the area, jobs that might pay relatively low wages in some areas could pay much higher salaries in other parts of the country.
To identify the city with the highest paying job, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the annual median wage in 389 metropolitan statistical areas using data from the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Most cities on the finalist list for the one with the highest paying jobs are in coastal areas. California’s Silicon Valley is home to many of the world’s largest tech companies, while New York is home to Wall Street, and many finance giants are headquartered in the Big Apple. These industries tend to pay workers relatively high wages and have become synonymous with the areas in which they are located.
One common thread linking the cities on the finalist list is educational attainment. Of the 25 metro areas with the highest wages in the country, just one has a bachelor’s degree attainment share lower than the U.S. share of 33.1%. College-educated workers tend to earn higher wages than those with no degree, and they are less likely to live in poverty. There is a wide variety of income levels for college graduates, depending on what major they selected as students.
California-Lexington Park, Maryland, is the city with the highest paying jobs, with a 2019 annual median wage of $63,040. Here are some other details about the city:
> Most highly concentrated occupation: Aerospace engineers (45.8 times more common than national distribution)
> Annual wage of area aerospace engineers: $117,660 (national median wage: $116,500)
> 2019 poverty rate: 7.3% (367th highest out of 383 metro areas)
The California-Lexington Park metro area is near the southern tip of Maryland and within commuting distance of Washington, D.C. The area’s annual median wage in 2019 was $63,040, the most of any major metro area in the United States and well above the U.S. median wage for all jobs that year of $39,810.
Many of the largest employers in the area are government defense contractors, like Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. These companies, which the government contracts to develop new technology, tend to pay employees relatively high wages.
In identifying those with the highest paying jobs, the cities were ranked based on the annual median wage for all occupations, including part-time work. The measure of concentration of various occupations is based on location quotient of employment, which also comes from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics. Location quotients are ratios measuring the relative concentration of jobs in an area compared to their concentration in the national workforce.
Supplemental data on unemployment rates came from the BLS Local Area Unemployment Statistics program and is seasonally adjusted for December 2020. Data on poverty rates came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, and figures are one-year estimates. Job categories defined as miscellaneous or that include the description “all other” were not considered for the most highly concentrated job.