Flagstaff Average Hourly Wages Lowest in the U.S.

Mar 24, 2015

A recent study ranked Flagstaff as having the lowest private-sector wages in the nation when adjusted for cost of living. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, a low-paying tourism economy and costly real estate contribute to the ranking. 

The San Francisco Peaks viewed from Northern Arizona University's Mountain Campus in Flagstaff. NAU is one of the region's largest employers and a primary economic driver.
Credit NAU

The average hourly wage in Flagstaff was just under $17 in 2014. But when cost-of-living expenses, including housing prices, were factored in, earnings dropped to $14.31 — about $8 below the national adjusted average. The data from the Labor Department and the Council for Community and Economic Research was compiled by Governing magazine.

Richard Bowen is the president of the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona. He says Flagstaff’s especially large number of tourism-oriented jobs skews the overall picture of earnings in the city.

“If you took half of those jobs, those low-wage hospitality jobs, out of the equation then our average wage would approach more the national average. So the numbers don’t really paint the whole picture for the region,” Bowen says.

Several other Arizona cities also made the list of lowest average wages including Prescott, Kingman and Lake Havasu City. The national cost-of-living-adjusted average is $22.39 per hour.