High-Wage Jobs in the Leisure and Hospitality Industry

by Guy Tauer

March 6, 2024

You might consider the title of this article a bit of an oxymoron, and if you were to compare just average figures across industries, you’d be right. Leisure and hospitality has a high share of low-wage jobs, and a lower average wage than most industries. However, in 2022 about 45,000 leisure and hospitality jobs paid more than $30 per hour. And in the peak summer season, about one out of five jobs in the sector paid $25 or more per hour. This high-wage employment is spread across many occupations, and top high-wage jobs include many managerial and supervisory roles, emphasizing the role longevity and experience in the industry may play in attaining higher wages.

Large Leisure Industry Includes 45,000 Jobs Paying $30 or More

OED’s annual wage file reports disaggregate jobs by wage range and industry. You can find these figures in the “data” section of QualityInfo.org, titled “Oregonians@Work”. The leisure and hospitality industry has a greater share of all jobs that pay under $15 than the all-industry average for Oregon, about 25% compared with 9% for all industries less leisure and hospitality. In the next lowest wage category, those paying $15 to $19 per hour, about 40% of leisure and hospitality jobs had wages in this range, while 26% of jobs for all industries excluding leisure and hospitality had hourly wages in that range.

Looking at the higher-wage categories, almost 7% of leisure and hospitality jobs paid between $30 and $39.99 per hour while 12.6% of non-leisure and hospitality jobs paid in that range. For the highest wage range published, $60 or more per hour, 1.3% of jobs in leisure and hospitality industry were in that range compared with 12.1% of non-leisure and hospitality jobs. Focusing on the total share of jobs paying high wages of $30 or more per hour, 10.7% of leisure and hospitality jobs paid those wages whereas 37.5% of non-leisure and hospitality jobs had hourly wages of $30 or more in 2022.
Graph showing Share of Jobs by Broad Industry Hourly Wage Level 2022

Despite the lower share of leisure and hospitality jobs paying high wages – in this analysis $30 or more per hour – the net number shows 45,136 high-wage jobs, the ninth greatest among the 15 industry sectors published. In comparison, the retail trade industry had about 49,500 jobs paying $30 or more. The leisure and hospitality industry accounted for 7.3% of all jobs paying between $30 and $39.99 per hour; 3.8% of all jobs paying between $40 and $49.99 per hour; 2.0% of all jobs paying from $50 to $59.99; and 1.6% of all jobs paying $60 or more per hour in 2022.
Graph showing Number of Jobs by Industry Paying $30.00 or More in 2022

One out of Five Summer Jobs Paid $25 or More

A special query of our wage file data shows a point-in-time snapshot of jobs that paid greater than the all-industry median hourly wage.. In the third quarter of 2022, when leisure and hospitality jobs hit their annual summer peak, just over one out of five jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry, 22% or 58,264 jobs, paid that quarter’s all-industry median hourly wage of $25 or more. The share of high-wage jobs in the leisure and hospitalty sector was similar to retail trade (25%) and natural resource and mining (21%).
Table showing Oregon - Number of Jobs by Broad Industry and Median Wage Category, 3rd Quarter 2022

Top High-Wage Occupations in Leisure and Hospitality

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Wage and Employment Statistics survey program publishes occupational employment and wage estimates for the components of the leisure and hospitality industry: arts, entertainment, and recreation; and accommodations and food services. This analysis included selected occupations that paid median wages above the median all-occupation hourly wage of $22.97 in May 2022.

An occupation may have had high-wage employment in the leisure and hospitality industry, but if the occupation overall didn’t pay more than the all-occupation median hourly wage, those jobs weren’t included in the total of high-wage leisure and hospitality jobs. Conversely, there are occupations that are considered high wage because the median hourly wage is greater than the all-occupation average, but some of the jobs in that occupation pay below the threshold for our definition of high wage.

The table shows the largest leisure and hospitality occupations with median hourly wages in either arts, entertainment, and recreation, or accommodations and food services (or both) that exceed the all-occupation median. Employment is only included in the table if the occupation’s median wage within the subsector is above the overall median of $22.97 per hour. In some cases, both subsectors met these criteria and in others, only one of the subsectors’ employment is included.
Table showing Top 15 High-Wage Jobs in Oregon's Leisure and Hospitality Industry in 2022

Many of the high-paying jobs in leisure and hospitality are related to management and supervisory roles. There are also many high-paying chef and head cook positions as well as musicians, singers, actors, producers, and directors jobs where the median hourly wage is considered high wage. There are a diverse range of occupations where the median wage would be considered high wage in the leisure and hospitality sector in Oregon. These more detailed estimates by state, industry and occupation can be found at: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_research_estimates.htm.

With increasing experience, training, qualifications, responsibilities, and seniority, many high-wage and even very high-wage jobs can be found within Oregon’s leisure and hospitality industry.

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