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Which Companies Are Paying The Typical Worker $200K?

A few companies are paying top dollar for employees with the right sets of skills, but pay levels vary widely.

When you ask someone to think of companies that pay high salaries, names from Google  (GOOGL)  to Goldman Sachs  (GSHCX)  inevitably come up.

While some of these suppositions are true, others are part of long-running assumptions that have stopped corresponding to reality. The size of a company is also not necessarily related to average salary size as the median worker at Walmart  (WMT)  and Home Depot  (HD)  brings in less than $30,000.

To separate fact from fiction, the Wall Street Journal analyzed median salaries at 275 companies in the S&P 500  (^IN)  index. 

Like every year, trends such as well-paid tech workers emerged clearly, but so did the fact that companies are struggling to retain workers amid a nationwide labor shortage: over 150 companies raised pay more than 10% than in 2019.

Who Pays The Most (And The Least)?

The parent company of Google, Alphabet, emerged as a clear front-runner when it comes to income -- given highly specialized labor force and large amounts of capital to play with, the median worker brings in a whopping $295,884, the paper reported.

As the median worker brought in $122,329 in 2019, cybersecurity firm Fortinet  (FTNT)  either significantly raised wages or hired a lot of new and highly-paid people. In 2022, the median Fortinet worker brings in $202,875.

The stereotype that tech workers are well-paid is largely true: twelve of the top 25 companies with the highest-paid workers came from the tech industry.

Meta undefined, Netflix  (NFLX) and e-commerce platform Etsy  (ETSY)  all pay the median worker well above $100,000 as do investment firms like BlackRock  (BLK)   and Invesco  (CPNAX) .

Amazon  (AMZN) , which had committed to raising its maximum base pay to $350,000 in February, did not cross the $100,000 line in 2022. Apple  (AAPL)  was also not in the top payers in large part due to the high numbers of Genius Bar employees who do not earn as much as corporate workers. 

Companies where almost every employee is highly specialized were bound to come up much higher in the rating.

In general, companies that rely on service workers came in at the lower end of the spectrum. While the company raised their pay by an average of 21% in 2021, Walmart employees median wage is still below $30,000. 

The same is true at Starbucks  (SBUX)  and Home Depot. The lowest median wage was at auto-parts supplier Aptiv  (APTV)  — with the bulk of its full-time workforce in Mexico, the median worker was paid only $7,402, the paper reported.

Are Companies Paying More Now (Don't Count On It)?

Some companies did try to win over workers with higher salaries. Amazon, Apple and Starbucks, which have all faced unionization efforts, all committed to pay raises amid pressure from both activists and the workers themselves.

But the move in median pay wasn't always upward. After large staffing cutbacks caused by the travel disruptions during the pandemic, Delta  (DAL)  had to quickly rehire  workers on the lower end of the salary spectrum in 2022. While the median worker for the airline earned $118,198 in 2019, that number is now down sharply at $70,240.

Cruise line Carnival  (CCL) , which also relies on workers from countries with lower labor costs, also saw a drop in median salary to $8,658. That is well below the $15,429 seen in 2019.

You can see the full list here.