Think working in Utah means earning less? Think again, says a report the Utah Foundation released Thursday.

A November report from the Bureau of Labor statistics ranks Utah's weekly wage of $696 as 38th in the country, and just 78.8 percent of the national average weekly wage of $885.

But the Utah Foundation research brief, "Is Utah Really a Low-Wage State?" says full-time worker numbers show Utah is much closer to the national average wage.

"I think it's important for people to know what reality is in our economy," foundation President Stephen Kroes said. "When we continue to label our economy as an economy that doesn't support good wages, I think it's harmful in terms of economic development."

The research was conducted as part of the Utah Priorities Project, an effort to get Utah voters and candidates talking about issues of the greatest importance.

A main issue is Utah has the nation's second highest percentage of part-time workers (Minnesota is first), or about a third of the work force. Utah has a relatively high proportion of teenagers who work. More than half of part-time female workers say they work such hours due to family and personal obligations. More than two-thirds of male part-timers cited college as the reason.

But if you look just at full-time workers, Utah's weekly wages are at 95 percent of the national average, Kroes said.

"Our large proportion of part-time workers and the young age of our work force are influencing that (national wage) number heavily," Kroes said.

Another tidbit, but for which the foundation has no answer: a bigger gender-based wage gap. Men working full time in Utah make 98 percent of what men make nationally, on average. But women working full time in Utah earn just 90 percent of what women earn nationally. Kroes says it's uncertain whether its due to bias, work experience or educational levels.


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