BEND, OR -- Central Oregon wages are below the national average, according to the latest Occupational Employment and Wages Report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "With the release of these 2018 occupational wages, it shows that the average occupation in the Bend-Metro area was 7% below the U.S. average, so there's been a lot of attention on that," says Regional Employment Economist Damon Runberg, "But, that's always been the case; it's not really news." Although, he understands why people take notice, "If our wages are lower than the national average, and our cost of living is higher than the national average, than we're not getting paid enough. It's not that simple, but I could definitely see where someone would try to make that argument that that's what's going on here."
Runberg says the numbers are effected by high wages elsewhere in the country, "Really large metro areas with really high paying positions tend to skew some of these operational wages, so it is not surprising in the least that our average for all occupations is a bit below the national number." He tells KBND News making an across-the-board comparison is difficult, "Mostly because we have a higher concentration of workers in some of the lower paying industries. That's more the case than the fact that we have people making significantly less in some of these professional occupations out there. that's really driving down the total, all-occupation average."
Some industries in Central Oregon, like nursing and food prep & service are well above the average, and Runberg says, "The qualities of our economy and the industry specializations that we have all feed into the what the total average is, across the board." He believes the numbers are best used as a tool to learn more about the local area, not necessarily for making a straight comparison with other parts of the nation.