8 of the 10 Most-Equal, Highest-Paying Occupations in Illinois Are in Construction

The majority of high-wage, low-inequality jobs in Illinois are in construction occupations, law enforcement careers, and firefighting positions. Politically-driven efforts to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law or to weaken public sector unions would decimate a majority of the middle-class occupations that remain for blue-collar workers in the state.

A new Economic Commentary from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI), The Most Equal and Unequal Jobs in Illinois: Occupational Employment Statistics, explores four types of jobs in Illinois.

  1. Good Equality– occupations with worker wages that are at least 5% higher than the national average (after adjusting for the higher cost of living in Illinois) and inequality that is at least 5% lower than the national average;
  2. Good Inequality – occupations with wages that are at least 5% higher than the nation but inequality that is at least 5% worse;
  3. Bad Equality– occupations with wages that are at least 5% lower than the nation but inequality that is at least 5% lower; and
  4. Bad Inequality – occupations with worker wages that are at least 5% lower than the nation and inequality that is at least 5% worse.

The “good equality” occupations that have significantly higher wages and are significantly more equal than the national average are generally among the most worker-friendly jobs in Illinois.

The vast majority of the good equality occupations in Illinois are in construction or protective services.

Construction occupations account for 11 of the 32 good equality jobs, including 8 of the top 10. Blue-collar construction workers such as ironworkers, laborers, operating engineers, plumbers, electricians, and carpenters in Illinois all earn hourly wages that are over 20% more than the national average, even after adjusting for the higher cost of living in Illinois. Also included in the relatively high-wage, low-inequality classification are construction supervisors and construction inspectors, indicating that the construction labor market is better-compensated overall in Illinois. The primary reasons for this are that construction workers in Illinois are among the highest-trained, most-productive in the country and they are significantly more unionized.

Similarly, 7 of the 32 good equality jobs are in protective services. Correctional officers, detectives, police officers, security guards, and supervisors of fire fighters are among those in relatively high-paid, low-inequality jobs. These occupations also tend to be highly unionized in Illinois.

Good Equality Jobs

The waiter and waitress occupation is the largest bad equality job in Illinois. With inequality that is 19.3% lower than the national average, waiters and waitresses are more equal, but they are equally poor – earning average income of just $10.39 in wages and tips per hour (7.1% less than the national average). Raising the state’s minimum wage would benefit these 90,000 workers and lift them out of the bad equality category.

Policymakers should take steps to encourage more good equality occupations in Illinois.

In these “high-road” jobs, employees are compensated better than the national average and work in a more-equal environment. Generally speaking, workers in these occupations are supported by labor unions and other pro-worker policies, including strong educational support and training programs.

Politically-driven efforts to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law or to weaken public sector unions would decimate a majority of the good equality occupations that are still available for blue-collar Illinois workers – especially in construction, law enforcement, and firefighting.

At a minimum, politicians in Illinois should avoid enacting policies that would eliminate good equality jobs. In an age of rising inequality, state lawmakers could at least ensure that they will do no harm. Maintaining the state’s prevailing wage law, defending the rights of workers, and stopping the attack on public sector teachers, firefighters, and police officers are all actions that state lawmakers can take to protect middle-class job opportunities in Illinois.


For more, please see the full analysis at here: The Most Equal and Unequal Jobs in Illinois: Occupational Employment Statistics.

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