May 18, 2012 at 7:34 AM ET
Not all manufacturing jobs are created equal -- and certainly not manufacturing pay. According to a new study released by Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, manufacturing wages differ widely between large cities. Workers in McAllen, Texas, earn an average of roughly $35,000 per year, while those in Silicon Valley earn an average of more than four times that. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 cities with the highest-paid manufacturing jobs.
The Brookings report performed a detailed study of the composition and pay of manufacturing in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan regions. It appears that the biggest determinant of whether manufacturing jobs are high- or low-paying is the type of industry or industries operating in the region. High-tech manufacturing positions, which include the production of computers and electronics, pharmaceuticals and medicines, and aerospace products and parts, pay the highest salaries.
These three categories have the first, second and fourth highest average wages of all types of manufacturing. Computer and electronics manufacturers make an average of more than $95,000, and those in pharmaceuticals production earn an average of more than $100,000. Many of the production jobs in nine of these 10 cities are in one of these three high-tech categories. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif., has large pharmaceutical and computer parts industries.
On top of a region having one or more of these three high-paying industries, there appears to be other drivers in play. Based on the configurations of industries in these cities, Brookings estimated what the average salary should be in these areas. Even then, the actual average manufacturing wages in nine of these regions were 20 percent higher than their expected wages. In the case of San Jose, the actual average manufacturing salary of $144,899 was more than double the expected wage considering its industry makeup.
The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program’s report, "Locating American Manufacturing: Trends in the Geography of Production," provided detailed information on the major types of manufacturing in each of the 100 largest metropolitan regions in the country. Included in this report is the average wage across all industries, the wage for those in all manufacturing jobs, as well as the average wage for those in high-tech manufacturing jobs.
These are the 10 cities where manufacturing pays the highest.
1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, better known as Silicon Valley, is the country’s most important high-tech center. Of the region’s 872,000 jobs, 17.5 percent, or 153,000, are in manufacturing. About 74.6 percent of these jobs are classified as high-tech positions, making it the most high-tech specialized major city in the United States. Computers and electronics are by far the region’s largest output, accounting for nearly 70 percent of all manufacturing jobs. Of the largest metro regions in the U.S., San Jose has the highest average pay in every category. The average salary for a high-tech position is $164,796, more than $70,000 more than the average wage across all positions in the area.
2. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut
The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut metro region, which comprises all of Fairfield country, has a slightly larger manufacturing industry than the national average. These jobs are diversified, with several different areas of specialization, including machinery production and computers and electronics. By far, the largest is the aerospace sector, which accounts for 23.7 percent of all manufacturing jobs. Of the region’s 36,914 manufacturing positions, 41.8 percent of them are high-tech positions. The average pay for a job in this category is $114,071.
3. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, California
The San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area is the largest of the four California metro regions to make it on this list. It also has the third-highest average manufacturing wage in the country of more than $90,000. San Francisco manufacturing jobs are diversified across a variety of sectors, but among the largest of these are computers and electronics, at 21.6 percent, and food and pharmaceuticals, at 11 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively. According to Brooking’s assessment of the composition of San Francisco’s industry, workers are getting paid an average of more than $30,000 more than workers in a city with a similar composition.
4. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
While manufacturing jobs in the Austin metro region took a severe dive for most of the past decade, they began to rebound in the past few years. Between the first quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2011, manufacturing jobs increased 7.2 percent, more than two and a half times the national growth rate. Austin is one of the most high-tech specialized cities in the country, with 53.6 percent of manufacturing jobs classified as high-tech compared to the national average of just 16.1 percent. Those in high-tech manufacturing jobs in the region are paid an average of $118,416, approximately $68,000 more than the average pay across all jobs in the area.
5. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California
Manufacturing in the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura declined 22.2 percent, less than the national decline of 33.2 percent. However, between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2011, those jobs decreased by 3.3 percent, more than all but a handful of the largest cities in the country. Oxnard’s manufacturing industry specializes in information technology, with computers and electronics representing 22.5 percent of manufacturing jobs. Pharmaceuticals come in second, at 20.1 percent. The average manufacturing wage in the region is $87,502 -- roughly $35,000 more than the regional average wage.