So there’s good news and there’s terrible news on wages in Honolulu.
Our average private sector wage in 2014 was an entirely respectable $25.10 per hour, at least until the cost of living was factored in.
Then the real buying power of that wage shriveled to just $14.66 per hour when compared to 191 metro areas surveyed around the country.
That places Honolulu second to last among metro areas when it comes to the spending power of an average hour of work.
Average hourly pay in Honolulu plummets when the cost of living is factored in.
Only employees in Flagstaff, Arizona — another place famous for natural beauty and an economy driven by tourism — earned (slightly) less when adjusted for the cost of living. Tourism tends to create plenty of low-paying jobs that can drive down average salaries. And Flagstaff, like Honolulu, suffers a tight — and expensive — housing market, which undermines people’s buying power.
This depressing data comes from the media website Governing, which contrasted private-sector earnings data on average salaries and adjusted prices in different areas. Using the Labor Department’s Council for Community and Economic Research numbers, Governing found that the average adjusted annual salary for the surveyed areas is around $22 per hour.
That’s about 50 percent more than Honolulu’s adjusted hourly wage.
Like Honolulu, the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island area suffered a $10-per hour decline in purchasing power, but the average worker there still ends up with nearly four extra dollars of spending power for each hour worked.
Aside from Honolulu and the New York area, the other 18 worst areas for real hourly salaries are all in the southern United States where far fewer people are union members and where minimum wages tend to be at or close to the federal level.
Hawaii and New York stand out because they are among the most unionized states in the country.
For Hawaii residents who are considering a move from the islands to escape financial pressures, it might be worth looking into metro areas like Des Moines, Iowa, and Indianapolis-Carmel, Indiana. The average adjusted hourly wage in both areas is more than $27. That’s nearly double the average adjusted salary in Honolulu.