Underpaid in Honolulu?

Jun 2, 2017

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It’s not your imagination — most white-collar jobs in Honolulu really do pay less than on the Mainland. Pacific Business News editor-in-chief A. Kam Napier has more.

American City Business Journals has crunched the numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 72 jobs across 107 metropolitan areas nationwide. The results for Honolulu confirm what we all anecdotally know to be true.


Think of nearly any white-collar occupation and its average pay in Honolulu is lower than the national average. Sometimes it’s a little. Urban planners here make about 2 percent less. Sometimes it’s a lot. Personal financial planners here earn on average nearly 34 percent less. That job, along with marketing managers and sales managers, face the greatest discrepancy, all earning about a third less.


Some professions do quite well here. Real estate brokers in Honolulu earn, on average, nearly twice as much as their Mainland counterparts. Real estate sales agents, two-thirds as much. Count among the lucky college administrators, registered nurses, insurance agents and a few other professions who all see higher earnings here.


Our analysis also factors in the cost of living to figure out what those salaries can buy. The paradise tax is as real as ever — that is, the effect of Honolulu’s cost of living on purchasing power. Honolulu dentists for example average $181,000 a year but their locally adjusted purchasing power drops to about $146,000 when our cost of living is compared to the national average, a hit of 19 percent. In other cities, the opposite is true. Dentists in Charlotte, North Carolina, earn $271,000 but that city is so affordable, comparatively, it’s like earning almost $290,000.



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