Where the best-paying jobs are: Salinas, Calif.?

The best paying jobs in the country are in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the average pay is 19% better than the national average, according to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The worst paying area was in the Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas metropolitan area with a pay relative of 77, meaning workers earned an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by workers nationwide.

But let's not focus on the worst paying jobs. Instead, let's look at the some of the ones paying above the average national pay relative to 100, as defined by the BLS study. A pay relative is a calculation of pay -- wages, salaries, commissions and production bonuses. Only metropolitan areas were studied.

So for the San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland metro area in California, a pay relative of 119 means that workers there earn 19% more, or $1.19 for every dollar, than average workers across the country.

Here are the other top finishers among 77 metro areas studied, and their pay relative numbers:

  • New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA: 114
  • Boston-Worcester-Manchester, MA-NH: 111
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA: 109
  • Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV: 109
  • Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City, IL-IN-WI: 108
  • Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, PA-NJ-DE-MD: 105
  • Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville, GA-AL: 100
  • Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX: 98
  • Dallas-Fort Worth, TX: 97
Beyond a few spots in California, it looks like the best places with the highest-paying jobs are in the East and the South.

The BLS study also breaks it down by major occupational groups, so if you work in one of these sectors and can move, these are the areas of the country where they pay the best. That doesn't mean they're hiring, but it's worth checking out if you need a job in these areas.

For example, the highest pay relative in the top sectors was a 132 for construction and extraction jobs in New York-Newark-Bridgeport, followed by 131 in Chicago-Naperville-Michigan.

The best-paying installation, maintenance and repair jobs were in Salinas, Calif., at 24% better than the national average, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area at 17% better than the national average.

The Bay Area also had the best paying service jobs at 26% better than the national average, and led in office and administrative support at 20% better.

Beyond the best-paying maintenance jobs, Salinas led or was second in a few other sectors: Professional and related with a pay relative of 120, second the the Bay Area in service jobs with a 123 score, and first in sales and related jobs with a 129 score.

Something is happening in Salinas, home to rodeos and John Steinbeck. If only the rest of the nation could figure it out.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at www.AaronCrowe.net

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