Marucs: What’s Indiana’s economic story?


Morton Marcus

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes state data on employment and wages for more than 770 occupations. Without space here for all those occupations, we’ll settle for just 22 major types of jobs.

How does Indiana compare with the nation? The median annual wage for 148 million jobs in the U.S. was $46,310 in May 2022. That compares with $42,100 for 3.1 million jobs in Indiana.

Being 9.1% below the nation is no surprise. It’s the reason our “cost of living” is below the nation’s. Our housing costs, the biggest component of living costs, are lower because our ability to pay is lower.

Not all occupations in Indiana earn less than the same jobs nationwide. In four occupations, Indiana exceeds the national annual median wage. Those Hoosiers holding jobs in construction and extraction occupations earned $3,740 (7.4%) more than their national counterparts.

In farming, fishing, and forestry occupations, the annual median wage for Hoosiers was $2,870 (8.4%) above the national figure. Production occupations in Indiana were up by $1,250 (3.1%) and transportation and material moving occupations were fully $30 (0.1%) over the national figure.

Yes, Indiana had four of 22 occupations with higher than the national median wages. If you’re looking for cheaper wages, Indiana is the place for your business. For example, computer and mathematical occupations in the Hoosier state have a median annual wage of $23,950 (23.8%) below the national level.

Shhh, don’t tell the many students in Indiana with aspirations in that direction about the higher earnings available elsewhere. And keep Hoosiers in legal occupations from learning their median wages are 17.6% lower than their national counterparts.

But let’s not dwell on our relatively low wages, a well-known story that attracts firms looking for low wages. How are we staffed? To answer that question we’ll use location quotients, a measure popular in site selection decisions, although nobody can really say why.

A location quotient (LQ) is simply the percentage of something in one place compared with the percentage of that same something in the larger state, region, or nation. For example, Indiana has an LQ of 2.0 in production occupations. This means our percentage of jobs in those particular occupations is twice the national percentage.

Hoosier occupations have higher percentages of jobs than found nationally in 6 of the 22 major occupation groups. Production (mainly manufacturing) and transportation and material moving (trucking and warehousing) occupations account for 85% of our “excess” jobs compared to the national averages.

In this state, we’re more dependent on labor than leadership. Our lowest LQs are in management, business and financial operations; together these two areas account for 34% of our “deficit” of jobs. That could be due to a lack of business headquarters.

Some would argue Indiana’s business leadership is so good, we don’t need as much as other states. Alternatively, I recall Proverbs 11:14 saying, “Where no wise direction is, a people perish.”

Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow him and John Guy on Who Gets What? wherever podcasts are available or at