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Column: Median state wages lag, falling further behind

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A few readers of the South Bend newspaper have sent emails complaining that either they do not understand my columns or that I waste their time by not sticking to the facts. That I include some of my conclusions from the data seems to be an irritant.

In deference to these readers, this week I will present only the facts and withhold my observations. I am trusting the facts are sufficiently clear that all readers will be able to draw their own conclusions about our state’s economic performance.

Twice a year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects and then releases data on the number of people in each state working in different occupations. In addition, the bureau calculates the median earnings of those workers.

The median, as regular readers remember, is that number which divides a series into two divisions, with half of the observations above the median and half below it. This gives us an indication of what Hoosiers and all Americans earn in the various occupations.

Now, unless one suspects the bureau of falsifying the data for unspecified political reasons or is incompetent to collect such information, we can take these data as facts.

Indiana’s annual median wage for all occupations was $31,990 in May 2013, 8.8 percent below the national figure. From May 2003 to the same month in 2013, Hoosier wages rose by 19 percent, while median wages rose by 25 percent nationally.

The highest median wages in 2013 paid nationally ($95,600) and in Indiana ($80,300) were for management occupations, with our executives receiving 10 percent less than their national counterparts in 2003 and 16 percent less in 2013.

Employment in legal occupations grew faster in Indiana that in the U.S. (26 percent vs. 9 percent), but at $56,090, we were 26 percent below the national median.

Indiana’s health care practitioners and technical occupations were paid 13 percent less in 2013 than those people nationally. Health care support occupations in Indiana saw their median earnings rise by 15 percent over the period ’03 to ’13, while the national figure rose 22 percent.

Hoosiers in transportation and material moving occupations are closest to their brothers and sisters in other states, trailing in median wages by just 0.6 percent in 2013 after being 6 percent above the nation in ’03.

In a sense, our best performance was in farming, fishing and forestry occupations. Only 5,200 jobs fell into this group in ’03; that figure declined to 3,400 in ’13. Nonetheless, the median wage for this activity increased by 28 percent in Indiana, but only 15 percent in the U.S.

Protective service jobs offered Hoosiers a median wage of $34,480 in ’13, about 6 percent lower than the national median. This was an improvement over ’03 when Hoosiers lagged behind by 11 percent.

There are more facts to be had from the data, but I am about to run out of space; and you, dear readers, will have to draw your own conclusions as to the meaning of all these numbers.

Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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