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America’s Highest-Paying Industries

Which US Industries Pay the Most in Wages and Supplements

May 14, 2020 by Emsi Burning Glass

Compensation is an important factor when considering a job, in any industry. In this article, we’ll look at the highest-paying industries (including wages and supplements like pensions, insurance plans, retirement, etc.). 

 

The top three highest-paying industries are:

  1. Utilities

  2. Management of Companies and Enterprises

  3. Information 

 

To find the highest-paying industries, we’ll look at 2019 total earnings per job (EPJ) by 2-digit NAICS sectors. The data is based on two things:

  1. Wages, salaries, and proprietor earnings – the average earnings for the employee or what the owner of a company pays his or her self.
  2. Supplements – a measure of pensions, insurance plans, profit-sharing plans, retirement plans, compensation plans, and supplemental unemployment benefit plans. It also covers employer contributions for government social insurance. This number is derived from the BEA State and Local Personal Income reports.

Note: For more granular industry data, our tools can break out supplements and wage information all the way down to 6-digit NAICS.

To arrive at the EPJ figure, Emsi divides average annual total earnings by the annual average of jobs in the industry. It’s important to keep in mind industry earnings per job (EPJ) is not a good measure of “average salary.” However, industry EPJ figures are valuable because they provide a broad indicator of the overall quality of jobs in each industry.

To provide even more context, we’ve also included the top five highest-paying occupations in each of the three highest-paying industries. This gives you an idea of what types of well-paying jobs are in those industries and how much they pay. (Note: Occupational wages are not specific to the industry.)

Let’s take a detailed look at the highest-paying industries.

Looking for compensation data by occupation, job title, region, or company? We can help! 

 

No. 1 highest-paying industry: Utilities ($154,700 EPJ)

Utilities is the industry with the highest earnings per job. Much of this has to do with the fact that over $41,500 of their total earnings comes as a result of supplements. Utilities is by far the most-unionized private-sector industry, with over 24% of workers represented by unions in 2019. The runner-up is transportation and warehouse at nearly 18%. (See here for a complete breakdown). This goes along in explaining these wages/benefit numbers, as does the fact that the utilities sector has an experienced, aging workforce that’s been racking up decades of pay raises.

Also note, total employment in the utility sector is low compared to others. About 550,000 people work in the utility sector at nearly 19,000 establishments nationwide. In comparison, 2.4 million people work in management of companies and enterprises and 2.8 million people work in information. 

Employment in the utilities sector declined by about 3,000 jobs from 2017 to 2019.

Here are the top five highest-paying occupations in the utilities industry*:

 

  1. Electrical Engineers- $46.46

  2. Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation, and Relay- $38.56

  3. Power Plant Operators- $38.27

  4. Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers- $34.09

  5. First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers- $31.80

 

*Data filtered to include only occupations with at least 15,000 jobs in 2019. Wages based on median hourly earnings. 

 

No. 2 highest-paying industry: Management of Companies and Enterprises ($146,800 EPJ)

Second on the list is management of companies and enterprises. At nearly $21,000 it also has a pretty high level of supplements per worker, which makes sense seeing that it’s common for managers to take non-wage/salary compensation. Employment in this sector has increased by over 114,000 jobs from 2017-2019. Also note, the wages and salaries in this sector are actually quite a bit higher on average than utilities.

Here are top five highest-paying occupations in the management of companies and enterprises industry*:

 

  1. Chief Executives- $91.15

  2. Computer and Information Systems Managers- $68.53

  3. Marketing Managers- $64.56

  4. Financial Managers- $61.53

  5. Sales Managers- $59.72

 

*Data filtered to include only occupations with at least 15,000 jobs in 2019. Wages based on median hourly earnings. 

 

No. 3 highest-paying industry: Information ($136,700 EPJ)

The information industries have the second highest wages/salaries ($117,800) of all 20 2-digit industries, second only to management of companies and enterprises. Information also boasts a respectably high level of supplements per worker at $18,900. This sector grew a modest 2% (44,000 workers) from 2017 to 2019. For reference, the two fastest-growing sectors in that same timeframe were Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction at 10% (60,230 workers) and transportation and warehousing at 9% (455,000 workers).

Here are top five highest-paying occupations in the management of companies and enterprises industry*:

 

  1. Computer and Information Systems Managers- $68.53

  2. Software Developers, Systems Software- $52.89

  3. Software Developers, Applications- $49.82

  4. General and Operations Managers- $48.52

  5. Computer Occupations, All Other- $43.40

 

*Data filtered to include only occupations with at least 40,000 jobs in 2019. Wages based on median hourly earnings. 

 

Highest-paying industries ($90K-$130K EPJ)

The upper middle industries for worker pay are finance and insurance; mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; professional/scientific/technical services; and wholesale trade. These industry sectors pay at least $79,600 per year in basic wages and over $92,700 once you factor in supplements. At $21,200, the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry has the highest amount of supplements in this group; wholesale trade industries are the lowest at $13,200.

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction grew by 60,000 jobs from 2017 to 2019 (10%). Professional and tech services grew by nearly 488,000 jobs from 2017 to 2019 (5%). Finance/insurance grew by 120,000 (2%), while wholesale trade declined by 16,000 jobs over the same time period.

 

Highest-paying industries ($60K-$89K EPJ)

The middle tier includes manufacturing, government, construction, real estate, transportation and warehousing, and healthcare industries. Basic wages start at $51,400 (healthcare) and move up to nearly $69,400 (manufacturing). At over $22,500, government has the highest level of supplements, which brings the annual average EPJ to over $78,600. Manufacturing also has a relatively high level of supplements at $17,400, making the average nationwide EPJ nearly $86,800. Real estate has the lowest level of supplements at $9,000. Not surprisingly, the healthcare industry grew by a whopping 740,000 jobs from 2017 to 2019—more than any other industry. Construction and transportation and warehousing also saw solid growth in that time frame, with an increase of 490,000 jobs and 455,000 jobs, respectively.

 

Lowest-paying industries ($25K-$52K EPJ)

The lowest-paying industries are (in order of average EPJ) as follows: educational services ($52,200), administrative/support/waste management ($50,400), arts/entertainment/recreation ($46,300), agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting ($43,900), retail trade ($39,500), other services ($39,500), accommodation/food services ($25,600).

 Keep in mind, there are still good wages and salaries to be had in these sectors. It’s just that these sectors tend to be lower in terms of pay. 

In terms of employment, these sectors have remained fairly stable from 2017 to 2019, with only the retail sector taking a hit (217,000 workers or 1%). Educational services have the highest amount of supplements.

Note: The following table is sorted by “2019 Avg. EPJ.”

 

NAICSDescription2017 Jobs2019 Jobs2017 - 2019 Change2017 - 2019 % ChangeCurrent Wages & Salaries2019 SupplementsAvg. Earnings Per Job2019 Establishments
22Utilities551,935549,165 (2,770) (1%)$113,124$41,541$154,66418,802
55Management of Companies and Enterprises2,278,0422,392,164114,1225%$125,846$20,937$146,78368,951
51Information2,793,4292,837,62844,1992%$117,761$18,936$136,697182,145
52Finance and Insurance6,260,7336,381,285120,5522%$109,905$18,492$128,397497,424
21Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction623,934684,16460,23010%$106,941$21,158$128,09932,713
54Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services9,103,0009,590,979487,9795%$99,653$14,793$114,4471,259,868
42Wholesale Trade5,898,6375,882,384 (16,253) (0%)$79,603$13,179$92,782617,480
31Manufacturing12,406,75712,775,305368,5483%$69,423$17,388$86,811354,899
90Government24,413,21224,642,425229,2131%$56,094$22,530$78,624300,124
23Construction7,126,0017,616,083490,0827%$64,675$11,319$75,995827,447
53Real Estate and Rental and Leasing2,225,9892,322,63696,6474%$60,660$9,024$69,684413,222
48Transportation and Warehousing5,170,3695,625,615455,2469%$55,741$12,110$67,851260,055
62Health Care and Social Assistance19,460,08420,200,645740,5614%$51,363$11,026$62,3881,624,244
61Educational Services3,800,8883,951,496150,6084%$43,555$8,623$52,178126,406
56Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services9,064,8119,276,088211,2772%$42,498$7,905$50,403564,701
71Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation2,293,8722,408,043114,1715%$39,636$6,672$46,308152,993
11Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting1,404,3881,412,4248,0361%$35,883$7,982$43,865106,873
44Retail Trade15,854,45415,637,393 (217,061) (1%)$33,268$6,217$39,4841,044,940
81Other Services (except Public Administration)5,933,2956,058,078124,7832%$34,854$4,614$39,468860,284
72Accommodation and Food Services13,606,76213,977,845371,0833%$22,260$3,355$25,615723,539
150,270,592154,221,8453,951,2533%$57,739$12,713$70,45210,037,110

 
If you have questions about compensation data, we’re here to geek out on labor market data with you!

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