Bread winners

The business of making things is still strong in much of central Massachusetts, as well as parts of the Merrimack Valley and the southeastern region of the state. But curing other people is how more Bay State residents earn a living. The larger map below shows which economic sector is predominant among workers (not residents) in each city and town as measured by total wages paid in 2004. Statewide, manufacturing is still number one, with some $19.1 billion paid out in 2004. But manufacturing ranks third in terms of total employees, with a monthly average of 313,000. The sector still provides “good jobs at good wages”—the average weekly paycheck last year was $1,171, compared with $947 for the state’s entire private-sector workforce—but increasingly fewer of them. 

In terms of bodies, the biggest industry is health care, and the smaller map shows that it is the dominant employer in most of the state’s major cities—including Boston,Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, Fall River, and Brockton. (New Bedford and Chicopee are the largest communities where manufacturing still rules, and Cambridge is the biggest community where education is on top.) But average weekly pay for health care workers is only $793. That’s still better than wages in the retail sector ($520) or the accommodation/food sector ($333), which dominates in much of Cape Cod and the Berkshires.However, it’s not as good as the construction industry ($1,002), which is strongest in many of the state’s smallest towns.

As for the state’s vaunted “creative class,” it dominates the payroll in Boston, Everett, and Quincy (where financial services is No. 1) and in many northern and western suburbs (where the professional/technical sector leads). But even in many of these places, more people actually work in health care.

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