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Not all wages are created equal


Tamara Samples does some job hunting on the computer at the Ohio Job and Family Services office on Airport Highway.

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If you're considering entering a career field, or switching careers, it would be helpful to know what you're likely to get paid.

You can do the research yourself, for free, on the Internet or at the public library.

If you're comfortable with the Web, log on to the labor-market information site, and then go to the “data” icon, followed by “occupation and wages” and finally “1999 occcupation wage data.” Select the Toledo metropolitan area, and you'll get 14 solid pages of information about the jobs that exist in this area, how many people hold them, their average hourly wages, and the typical annual wages for each occupation.

If you're more comfortable with hard copies, go to a public library and ask for County Business Patterns, a U.S. Census publication. There's a separate book for every state, and each one gives tremendous statistical data for each county in the state. The latest book for Ohio, the 1999 version, is 362 pages. In the main downtown Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, the book can be found in the Business Department.

County Business Patterns lists hundreds of occupations, the total number of people employed in those jobs (county by county), and the total payroll for each category.

It's a simple matter of mathematics.

For example, the 1999 book shows that Lucas County had 216,082 workers, and they made a total of $6.68 billion. That works out to $30,900 each.

But, of course, that's an average figure, and many workers made far more, and many made far less than the average.

Here are some sample Lucas County wages, extrapolated from the Census Bureau figures for 1999:

  • 816 residential construction workers made an average of $33,370;

  • 1,117 petroleum workers made nearly $66,000 on average;

  • 12,450 employees of transportation-equipment makers (including the Big Three automakers) got nearly $65,000 gross wages.

    Some other sample wages from the 1999 data:

  • employees of new-car dealers, $38,292;

  • furniture stores, $25,810;

  • food and beverage stores, $13,604;

  • general freight trucking, $38,038;

  • telecommunications, $41,445;

  • commercial banking, $30,971;

  • engineering services, $52,727;

  • travel agencies, $20,490;

  • janitorial services, $11,123;

  • hotel workers, 14,200;

  • hospital workers, $34,023.

    But those who have access to the Internet can get even more detailed data from the labor market information Web sites in each region. For the Toledo metropolitan area there are 14 pages of statistics, covering more than 400 job titles. Data includes the number of people holding each type of job, average hourly wages, median hourly wages, middle-range wages, and average annual pay.

    Here are some examples from the Web site:

  • There are 350 bakers, making $8.52 an hour, or $17,722 a year;

  • 4,070 bookkeeping clerks, $11.70 per hour, $24,336 a year;

  • 100 chemists, $23.27 an hour, $48,402 a year;

  • 670 computer programmers, $20.38 an hour, $42,390 per year;

  • 1,550 restaurant cooks, $7.93 an hour, $16,494 per year;

  • 210 graphic designers, $14.47 an hour, $30,098 per year;

  • 810 insurance agents, $29.33 an hour, $61,000 per year;

  • 1,470 welders, $16.43 an hour, $34,174 per year;

  • 3,670 light or delivery-truck drivers, $9.71 an hour, $20,197 per year;

  • 560 switchboard operators, $9.05 an hour, $18,824 per year;

  • 4,190 secretaries, $11.15 an hour, $23,192 per year;

  • 350 purchasing agents, $17.42 an hour, $36,236 per year, and

  • 420 prepress technicians and workers, $13.96 an hour, $29,037 per year.

    Also on the same site are such useful reports as “Ohio's Job Outlook to 2008,” “Local Workforce Trends,” an “Employer Locator,” and “High-paying On-the-Job Training Positions.”

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