As indicated in the explanation of the determination of the national average wage index (AWI), the latest annual change in the "raw" average wages is applied to the last AWI to obtain the next one. Such raw average wages are the average amounts of net compensation (as distinct from total employee compensation) listed in the table below.

An average is just one measure of central tendency for any set of data. Another measure is a median. For our wage data, the median wage (or net compensation) is the wage "in the middle." That is, half of the workers earned below this level. The table below shows that the median wage is substantially less than the average wage. The reason for the difference is that the distribution of workers by wage level is highly skewed.

Average and Median Amounts of Net Compensation
Average net compensation Median net compensationa Ratio of median to average
  Change   Change
Year Amount Annual Cumulative Amount Annual Cumulative
1991 $20,923.84 NA NA $15,075.94 NA NA 72.051%
1992 22,001.92 5.152% 5.152% 15,610.40 3.545% 3.545% 70.950%
1993 22,191.14 0.860% 6.057% 15,690.77 0.515% 4.078% 70.707%
1994 22,786.73 2.684% 8.903% 16,118.02 2.723% 6.912% 70.734%
1995 23,700.11 4.008% 13.268% 16,650.16 3.302% 10.442% 70.254%
1996 24,859.17 4.891% 18.808% 17,403.45 4.524% 15.439% 70.008%
1997 26,309.73 5.835% 25.740% 18,277.43 5.022% 21.236% 69.470%
1998 27,686.75 5.234% 32.322% 19,157.40 4.815% 27.073% 69.193%
1999 29,229.69 5.573% 39.696% 20,102.35 4.933% 33.341% 68.774%
2000 30,846.09 5.530% 47.421% 20,957.18 4.252% 39.011% 67.941%
2001 31,581.97 2.386% 50.938% 21,767.29 3.866% 44.384% 68.923%
2002 31,898.70 1.003% 52.451% 22,152.84 1.771% 46.942% 69.447%
2003 32,678.48 2.445% 56.178% 22,576.71 1.913% 49.753% 69.087%
2004 34,197.63 4.649% 63.439% 23,355.83 3.451% 54.921% 68.297%
2005 35,448.93 3.659% 69.419% 23,962.20 2.596% 58.943% 67.596%
2006 37,078.27 4.596% 77.206% 24,891.59 3.879% 65.108% 67.133%
2007 38,760.95 4.538% 85.248% 25,737.20 3.397% 70.717% 66.400%
2008 39,652.61 2.300% 89.509% 26,514.38 3.020% 75.872% 66.867%
2009 39,054.62 -1.508% 86.651% 26,261.29 -0.955% 74.193% 67.242%
2010b 39,959.30 2.316% 90.975% 26,363.55 0.389% 74.872% 65.976%
2011 41,211.36 3.133% 96.959% 26,965.43 2.283% 78.864% 65.432%
2012 42,498.21 3.123% 103.109% 27,519.10 2.053% 82.537% 64.754%
2013 43,041.39 1.278% 105.705% 28,031.02 1.860% 85.932% 65.126%
2014 44,569.20 3.550% 113.007% 28,851.21 2.926% 91.373% 64.734%
2015 46,119.78 3.479% 120.417% 29,930.13 3.740% 98.529% 64.897%
2016 46,640.94 1.130% 122.908% 30,533.31 2.015% 102.530% 65.465%
2017 48,251.57 3.453% 130.606% 31,561.49 3.367% 109.350% 65.410%
2018 50,000.44 3.624% 138.964% 32,838.05 4.045% 117.818% 65.676%
2019b 51,916.27 3.832% 148.120% 34,248.45 4.295% 127.173% 65.969%

a Median net compensation is estimated.

b Percentage change in average net compensation is different from the percentage change in the AWI. This is due to changes in the definition of net compensation. Such years and changes are listed below:
- 2010: Improved data edits are used.
- 2019: Contributions to additional types of deferred compensation plans are included.

Average and median net compensation are shown in the graph below. Also shown is the ratio of median to average amounts.

Average and median wages (see table above)