The average salary for U.S. workers: Essential information you need to know

It’s an odd time for the U.S. economy. “Work” has taken on a much broader meaning, stretching out to gig labor like Uber drivers, Grubhub deliverers, and a whole new generation’s worth of remote online freelancers, meaning rates and incomes have varied more wildly than ever before.

You might be wondering how these unstable income options relate to the average salary for U.S. workers, given that the terms “salary” and “gig economy” don’t easily go hand in hand. That’s what we’re here to discuss, along with how things like ethnicity, sex, and education affect the average salary of U.S. workers. Here’s the U.S. average salary info you need to know to make informed job and life decisions as a worker in the US.

The average salary for U.S. workers explained

The majority of figures in this post have been pulled from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, so this data’s as accurate as it’s likely to get.

Before we dive into the BLS’s statistics, here’s a fun fact from the Social Security Administration: according to 2018’s wage statistic data, it’s been calculated that roughly 67.4 percent of wage earners in the U.S. were earning equal to or less than fifty-thousand dollars per annum, with the vast majority making substantially less than that. To quote the SSA: “50 percent of wage earners had net compensation less than or equal to the median wage, which is estimated to be $32,838.05 for 2018.”

Perhaps future data will show an increase in median wages, but for right now, we have to assume most Americans are not, in fact, doing as well as we’d like to believe. And these are pre-tax numbers, mind you, so remember the amount each worker takes home is roughly twenty-five percent less than the numbers cited above, once social security and taxes are factored in.

The average salary for U.S. workers according to sex

According to the BLS, “median weekly earnings of the nation’s 118.3 million full-time wage and salary workers were $936 in the fourth quarter of 2019.” They claim this is four percent higher than data gathered from the same time in the previous year.

As usual, men came out on top in weekly earnings, with their median weekly income being $1,022. Women earned $843, which is 82.5 percent of what men earned.

These figures varied depending on ethnicity and race. White women earned 81.2 percent as much as white men, whereas black women earned 94.9 percent as much as their male counterparts. Asian and hispanic women earned 75.5 and 85.9 percent as much, respectively.

The average salary for U.S. workers according to ethnicity

As told by the BLS, these were the median weekly earnings of the U.S.’s four “major” ethnicity groups. These statistics neglect a lot of ethnicities such as Indians (or perhaps clump them into existing groups such as “Asian,” which is a debatable practice that could arguably lead to skewed and inaccurate results), but for the most general of purposes, these figures may prove insightful.

  • median earnings of Blacks ($756)
  • median earnings of Hispanics ($712) 
  • median earnings of Whites ($967)
  • median earnings of Asians ($1,166)

The average salary for U.S. workers according to age

The BLS broke down median weekly earnings by age, and the results are as follows (for the fourth quarter of 2019):

  • weekly earnings were $1,162 for men ages 35 to 44
  • weekly earnings were $1,174 for men ages 45 to 54
  • weekly earnings were $1,188 for men ages 55 to 64

The average salary for U.S. workers according to education

As for education, here is how varying education levels affected weekly incomes:

  • Full-time workers age twenty-five and above without a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $596
  • $747 for high school graduates (without college)
  • $1,382 for those with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree

The average salary for U.S. workers, analyzed

To get the average yearly salary from any of the aforementioned demographics, simply multiply the above figures by fifty-two (fifty-two weeks in a year). However, remember that there’s a reason the BLS lists weekly stats based on quarters of the year—incomes fluctuate rapidly and constantly enough that it’s less accurate to discuss average salaries in terms of annual figures.

Based on your education, age, ethnicity, and sex, these weekly salary statistics should help give you an idea of where you fall on the economic totem poll of averages. But what good are these formal figures without more relevant info, such as what the average Lyft driver makes? After all, how many of us are shackled to a traditional nine-to-five these days and have stable, predictable incomes that can be outlined tidily on a graph?

With that in mind, here’s a bonus statistic concerning the amount made by a Lyft and Uber driver during a week on the job (to help keep in-league with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ seven-day metric).

According to Clarke Bowman, he made roughly $257 over the course of one week of Lyft and Uber driving. However, over the course of that one week, he only spent 14 hours driving. This translates to about $19 per hour, which isn’t too shabby for a part-time gig. Still, it’s by no means a bread-and-butter income operation.

The average salary for U.S. workers, in summary

Without context, it’s hard to take away anything concrete from all these data points. So you’ll have to read between the lines to glean any real useful info from all these statistics.

For example, the sex statistics don’t mean a whole lot when you factor in that the wage gap myth has been categorically debunked on numerous occasions from people on all ends of the U.S. political spectrum—not just those with an agenda—so the question remains: what factors lead to such vast income disparities between women of various ethnicities and their male counterparts? Why are black men and women relatively equal in terms of income, but Asian men and women aren’t? These are questions you’ll have to ask yourself since no one has an objective one-size-fits-all answer.

Really, only a few statistics here will help make certain truths clear. One such truth is that Lyft and Uber can be decent pocket change if you live somewhere with high population density and citizen travel needs. And the other takeaway is that education is important in scoring high-paying jobs. So go to school, get those recommendation letters, write those resumes, and help put yourself on the high end of the BLS’s financial statistics.