Engineering managers top Tri-City wage scale

Engineering managers on average make top hourly wages and food service workers make the lowest in the Tri-Cities, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey released Tuesday.

Area wage rates range from a high of $61.90 an hour to a low of $8.52, the report said.

Those in engineering occupations on average make $43.23 an hour, those working in education and related occupations on average make $25.18. Sales and related occupations average $15.03 hourly and office and administrative occupations average $14.57.

The average worker wage in the Tri-City area is $22.43 per hour, according to the survey done in August as part of the National Compensation Survey.

"The survey shows our average wage is much higher compared with other regions across the nation," said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council. The survey shows the Tri-Cities has a two-tiered work force, he said, adding that occupations requiring technical skills tend to pay better.

The area's high average wage also is a two-edged sword, Adrian said: It may encourage other workers to hunt for jobs in the Tri-Cities, but it potentially could keep a company from locating in the area.

But the area's relatively low cost of living and high quality of life has helped TRIDEC continue to make a case for attracting new companies to the area, Adrian said.

Businesses often use the occupational wage data to set salaries for their employees, for contract negotiations with workers, and to make decisions about relocating if needed, said Dean Schau, regional labor economist. The data also can help people make career choices.

For example, nuclear engineers in the Tri-Cities make an hourly wage of $48.97, which translates to more than $100,000 a year, Schau said. The availability of a skilled work force also brings new businesses and work to the area, he said, citing a Chinese company's decision recently to open a research and development center in Richland.

The wage survey reflects earnings based on work largely determined by knowledge, job complexity and physical environment.

According to the survey, Tri-City full-time workers average $24.55 per hour, while their part-time counterparts earn $12.89. Union workers earn $24.54 and non-union workers earn $21.55.

Tri-City workers in establishments with 1 to 99 workers average $16.70 per hour, while those in businesses with 100 to 499 workers earn $21.80, and those in businesses with 500 or more employees earn an average of $33.59.

Hourly earnings exclude pay for overtime, vacations, holidays, bonus and tips. The survey also excludes the agriculture, fishing and forestry industries, private household workers and those working for the federal government.

For more information on the survey, visit

-- Pratik Joshi: 509-582-1541; pjoshi@tricity; Business Beat blog at