New data shows that as of May 2019 the average U.S. agent salary was $62,060. But wages are moving in different directions in different states.

Average real estate wages in the U.S. have been rising in recent years, according to recently released government data, though some states have seen explosive salary growth even as earnings in others dropped.

The data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and shows that as of May 2019 the average sales agent salary was $62,060. That’s up very slightly from $61,720 in May of 2018 and from $55,530 in May of 2014. And it means over five years agent salaries rose nearly 12 percent in the U.S.

Brokers similarly saw some wage growth. In May 2019, they had an average salary of $81,450, up from $78,940 in May of 2018. Brokers were making an average of $80,420 in 2014, meaning their salaries grew about 1.3 percent in five years. The data was first reported by Forbes.

The data also shows that average agent salaries varied considerably from state to state.

Credit: Inman

Here are the top five states for average agent salaries as of May 2019:

  1. New York, $111,800
  2. Massachusetts, $84,180
  3. Connecticut, $79,780
  4. Alaska, $79,360
  5. Colorado, $76,850

These are the states with the lowest average earnings:

  1. Indiana, $47,670
  2. Ohio, $47,420
  3. Idaho, $47,350
  4. Minnesota, $46,130
  5. Illinois, $42,130

Those two lists hint at some of the surprises buried in the data. For example, while pricey states such as New York and Massachusetts both have high average agent salaries, it’s notable that Colorado ranked higher than much larger and pricier California. In fact, California only had the seventh highest average agent salary, at $74,140 — right behind Utah, at $75,170.

Similarly, Montana — a state in which the largest city has barely more than 100,000 people — had a higher average, at $70,930, than much more populous states such as Florida and New Jersey, at $62,790 and $66,880 respectively. Indeed, the high average agent salaries in states spanning the Rocky Mountain region is one of the more noteworthy trends that emerged in the data.

Credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

This trend could be due to the Rocky Mountain region’s young and fast-growing population, as well as its relatively robust economy. But not every state near the Rockies outperformed other parts of the county; Idaho had one of the lowest averages, for example, and Nevada was closer to the middle of the national pack.

Ultimately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t delve into the reasons one state pulled ahead compared to another. However, presumably the supply and demand of housing, as well as the size of the real estate labor force relative to overall population, were significant factors.

In any case, some states have actually been pulling ahead for years now, while others fall behind. For example, back in 2014 agents in Colorado made an average of $71,880, meaning salaries there have grown nearly 7 percent over the last half decade. Colorado’s neighbor Utah, had even more explosive growth: In 2014, agents working in the Beehive State were making an average of just $53,660, meaning wages have grown more than 40 percent since then.

Here are the states where agent wages have grown the most since 2014:

  1. Mississippi, 67.4 percent
  2. Rhode Island, 51 percent
  3. Connecticut, 49.1 percent
  4. Maine, 45.9 percent
  5. Missouri, 45 percent

Overall, a large majority of states saw agent wages grow over the past five years.

However, 10 states did see agent wages fall during that same time period. The state with the largest drop was Illinois, where agents were making an average of $75,270 in 2014 but only $42,130 in 2019. That represents a relatively staggering drop of 44 percent.

Credit: Inman

As mentioned above, Illinois was the worst state for average agent salaries in 2019, but the percent change shows that its poor showing on that list is a relatively new development. Similarly, Illinois is also the worst state for broker salaries, with an average of $46,820 — down 48.4 percent from $90,700 in 2014.

Other states that have experienced significant drops in average agent salaries include Delaware, down 18.5 percent over five years, Kansas, down 11.3 percent, and North Carolina, down 10.8 percent.

Despite these drops, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data — which is based on a national, bi-annual survey of U.S. employers — is generally good news for real estate professionals in the U.S., a majority of whom are working in places where wages are rising.

The findings also support similar conclusions from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which reported earlier this month that average real estate wages have been trending upward. In NAR’s case, the trade group’s research focused on its membership and identified a median gross income of $49,700 last year, up from $41,800 in 2018.

The question now is what happens to the next set of wage data. Though it will likely be next year before the government releases updated wage data, that batch of numbers should reflect at least part of the coronavirus pandemic, which has decimated the economy but at the same time kept many real estate professionals extra busy.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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