Springfield Officials Point to Low Cost of Living Amid Low Wage Ranking

Jul 20, 2013

The average hourly wage in the Springfield metropolitan area was about 21 percent below the national average nearly a year ago. That’s according to May 2012 figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which were released Thursday. KSMU’s Scott Harvey has the details.

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey shows wages in the Springfield area averaged $17.29 per hour during that time, with 21 of the 22 major occupational groups reporting wages significantly lower than their respective national average. The BLS says none of those groups reported higher than average wages.

Ryan Mooney is the senior vice president for economic development with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The fact that our wages are below the national average is something that’s not really new to this area; it’s not really new to the Midwest as a whole. And you can see that with our cost of living being lower we still continue to grow in population. We still have a very low cost of doing business here, which translates into a growing economy,” Mooney said.

According to Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson, that low cost of doing business is measured by things like corporate tax rates, unemployment insurance costs, and utility rates.  He points to a 2011 Community Focus Report that found Springfield’s cost of housing is 23 percent better than the national average, and utilities are 17 percent cheaper.

“That’s something that the Chamber and those who are responsible for recruiting companies to the area are really promoting, and also at the municipal level, working with city council and government to ensure that those rates do remain low,” Olson says.

Olson also notes that Missouri, for the fourth straight year, was recently ranked in the top 10 for pro-business conditions by Pollina.

Thursday’s Occupational Employment Statistics survey shows the Healtcare Practitioner and Technical group was among the highest employed categories in the Springfield area in May 2012, with 14,460 people accounting for 7.8 percent of local area employment. Office and administrative support made up 16.9 percent of the workforce, while sales was at 11.6 percent.

The management category accounted for the highest mean hourly wage in the city at $38.12. The national average is $52.20 per hour.

The BLS study is a semiannual mail survey that covers nonfarm establishments in the United States. The Springfield Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Christian, Dallas, Greene, Polk, and Webster counties.