FILE - Austin Texas South by Southwest

Poster on 6th Street in Austin, Texas advertises the South by Southwest music, film, and interactive conference and festival.

After several decades of stagnation, real earnings for full-time U.S. workers are on the upswing. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that between 2015 and 2018, inflation-adjusted earnings for full-time wage and salary workers increased by more than 3.0 percent. Similarly, newly released data from the Census Bureau shows that inflation-adjusted earnings across all full-time workers increased by 2.2 percent over the same time period.

Despite wage gains at the national level, not all workers are seeing larger paychecks. According to data from the BLS, flight attendants had a nearly 18 percent increase in inflation-adjusted earnings from 2015 to 2018, outranking all other occupations with at least 100,000 workers. Farm workers and laborers, food preparation workers, and dishwashers also experienced large increases in real earnings, ranging from nearly 11 to over 16 percent. At the opposite end of the spectrum, postal service workers and financial services sales agents experienced the largest declines in real earnings among the nation’s most popular occupations, at 11 percent and 15 percent respectively.

At the state level, Oregon and Iowa led the nation in earnings gains from 2015 to 2018, with workers in those states seeing wage increases of more than 5 percent after adjusting for inflation. This is in contrast to many states that had little or no significant changes in wages over the same three year period.

To find the U.S. metros where incomes are rising the fastest, researchers at 360 Quote analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the BLS over a three-year period. Income growth was measured as the inflation-adjusted percentage change in earnings for full-time workers from 2015 to 2018. Researchers also calculated the occupation with the most wage growth in each metro, out of all occupations with at least 100,000 workers nationally. Here are the top 10 large metros where incomes are rising the fastest.

The Top 10 Metros With the Fastest-growing Wages

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 4.5%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $46,958
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $42,378
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Rehabilitation Counselors

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 4.6%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $45,533
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $41,075
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Driver/Sales Workers

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 4.6%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $50,380
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $45,434
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Chefs and Head Cooks

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 6.1%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $47,466
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $42,201
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Family and General Practitioners

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Salt Lake City, UT

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 7.4%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $48,009
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $42,176
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Mixing and Blending Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 7.7%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $49,555
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $43,428
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 7.8%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $60,424
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $52,873
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 8.3%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $81,036
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $70,591
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Graduate Teaching Assistants

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Austin-Round Rock, TX

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 8.6%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $53,245
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $46,249
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

  • Change in earnings for full-time workers (inflation-adjusted): 11.4%
  • 2018 median earnings for full-time workers (2018 dollars): $76,274
  • 2015 median earnings for full-time workers (2015 dollars): $64,572
  • Occupation with the most wage growth: Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary

Detailed Findings & Methodology

To determine the metros where incomes are rising the fastest, 360Quote analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 and 2018 American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 and 2018 Occupational Employment Survey.

Income growth was measured as the inflation-adjusted percentage change in median earnings for full-time workers between 2015 and 2018. Occupations with the most wage growth were identified by their inflation-adjusted percentage change in median earnings from 2015 to 2018. Only occupations with at least 100,000 workers nationally were considered. Inflation adjustments to 2015 earnings data were made using the CPI-U-RS index. Only the top 100 most populous metros were included in the analysis.

While real earnings for full-time workers are on the upswing, workers in some metros are experiencing much larger increases in their pay than others. For example, workers in the San Francisco metro area, where median earnings are already some of the highest in the country, saw their real earnings go up by over 11 percent. While earnings either went up or didn’t change for the most populous 100 metros, the Memphis, Tennessee metro stood out as the only large metropolitan area with a significant decrease in earnings at -4.1 percent.

Among metros with the fastest-growing incomes, the occupations with the most wage growth are a diverse set. For the San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles metro areas, workers in the education field (health specialties teachers and education, training, and library workers) experienced the largest increases in earnings. For the other metros on the list, occupations that experienced the biggest gains varied from general practitioners to rehab counselors. Median earnings for these occupations range from the bottom to the top of the earnings distribution.