PayScale Wage Data Shows Coronavirus Profoundly Changed Our Economy

Despite millions of unemployed workers, a few bright spots emerged for wage growth in Q1, as well as a telltale signal for impending economic decline

Seattle, Washington, UNITED STATES

SEATTLE, April 02, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, PayScale Inc, the leader in precise, on-demand cloud compensation data and software for businesses and individuals, released the Q1 2020 PayScale Index, which tracks quarterly and annual trends in compensation. The most recent Index shows the dramatic impact of the coronavirus on the U.S. economy in recent weeks. Wage growth for sales jobs experienced a sharp decline – a leading indicator for major economic downturn on the horizon. By contrast, wage growth was strong for transportation jobs as well as jobs in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, as coronavirus isolation measures resulted in more downtime for many employees and increased shopping from home.

“Although the social distancing measures were only implemented in the last weeks of the quarter, they were so far-reaching that they had a real impact on the overall results of the Q1 Index,” said Sudarshan Sampath, Director of Research at PayScale. “When large numbers of people move from working in their offices to their homes, consumer behavior changes significantly. The Index shows notable wage growth among employees who deliver packages and offer leisure activities.”

Here’s how the coronavirus epidemic impacted wage growth in the first quarter of 2020:

  • Wages for sales positions fell the most. Sales jobs, which were in the middle of the pack last quarter, landed at the bottom of the Q1 Index, reflecting jobs with the least wage growth. Wages for sales jobs experienced a meager 1.8 percent annual growth, likely caused by the general global slowdown.
  • Transportation jobs experienced the most wage growth. Much of the wage growth for transportation jobs occurred in the latter portion of the quarter as more people complied with work from home orders. As the pandemic created intense demand for delivered goods, employers of transportation occupations increased hiring and wages to fulfill shipping demand. Wages for these jobs grew 3.2 percent over the past year.
  • The leisure industry also topped the list. Arts, Entertainment and Recreation was the industry with the most wage growth in Q1 as more people had additional time to engage in leisure activities because they spent less time commuting while working from home. Jobs in this industry experienced 2.9 percent annual wage growth, most of which occurred in the last month of the quarter as the shift of working from home occurred.

In addition, PayScale analyzed wage data to compare the severity and duration of the current economic downturn sparked by coronavirus to the recession of 2008 to illustrate what we can expect in a post-coronavirus world. The research examines how the current financial turmoil will impact wages for employees with various levels of experience and education across a number of jobs, industries and metro regions. The results show that wages for most employees will not fully recover for another four or five years.

The PayScale Index is a different economic measure than the Employment Cost Index (ECI) reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the ECI tracks employment costs within organizations, the PayScale Index tracks workers’ wages across various organizations. This means the PayScale Index will capture changes in employees’ wages when they move to a different company, while the ECI does not. There is value in using both the ECI and the PayScale Index to determine relative wage growth in the U.S. economy.

To view the entire interactive Q1 2020 PayScale index which reflects wage trends across various industries, job categories, company sizes and major metros, including Canada, please visit: For information about the methodology of the PayScale Index, please visit:

About PayScale:

PayScale offers modern compensation software and the most precise, real-time, data-driven insights for employees and employers alike. More than 8,000 clients, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, use PayScale to power pay decisions for more than 23 million employees. These companies include Encana, The New York Times, Sunsweet, T-Mobile, United Health Group, Wendy's and Perry Ellis. For more information, please visit: or follow PayScale on Twitter:

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