Average journalist pay and employment fell in US in 2021, figures show

US journalist employment and pay fell in 2021, new government figures show

Average journalist pay fell in the US last year

The number of journalists employed in the United States fell by at least 2,500 last year, new statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest. Average journalist pay also fell by nearly $3,000 between 2020 and 2021.

According to America’s latest occupational employment and wage statistics, there were 39,080 “news analysts, reporters, and journalists” employed across the US in May 2021. This is down from 41,580 in May 2020, and 44,100 in May 2019. 

The mean annual wage for this category of worker was $63,230 in May 2021, down from $66,000 the year before.

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A note on our workings: The total number of journalists in the US will be greater than these figures suggest. They do not include self-employed people. And, for the purposes of this article, Press Gazette has focused on “news analysts, reporters and journalists” and disregarded other job categories that will include journalists.

For example, in May 2021, there were 88,780 editors employed in the United States with a mean annual wage of $76,400. But this would include editors working in the book publishing, movie, advertising, and PR industries.

Other relevant job categories not included in this article are broadcast announcers and DJs, technical writers, writers and authors, audio and video technicians, broadcast technicians, photographers, and camera operators.

Last year, the Pew Research Center estimated – based on 2020 figures – that there were 85,000 newsroom employees in the US.

A breakdown into the statistics for “news analysts, reporters, and journalists” shows that the “newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers” industry was particularly badly hit by employment and pay declines last year.

The number working in this sector was 18,940 in 2019. This figure fell to 16,890 in 2020, and 15,410 in May 2021. The mean wage in the publishing sector for these employees was $49,470, above $48,280 in 2019, but down from $53,410.

The number of journalists, reporters, and news analysts working in radio and television broadcasting was 16,510 in May 2021. This was down slightly from 16,700 in 2020. Average salaries were $68,480 in 2021, down from $72,880.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures also break down occupations by location. New York, California, and Texas were the three states with the most employed journalists.

In 2021, New York was home to 5,170 journalists, reporters and news analysts (down from 5,790 in May 2020) whose average wage was $95,510 (up from $90,450). In California, 3,740 (down from 4,100) had an average salary of $60,880 (down from $73,990). In Texas, 2,640 (up from 2,420) were paid an average $57,240 per year (just up from $57,210).

Analysis

It is always challenging to draw firm conclusions from large government employment datasets. These statistics, in particular, are complicated by their timing. The previous figures were recorded in May 2020, a period in which employment and wage statistics would have been skewed by Covid-19 disruption.

However, the comparisons between May 2019 and May 2021 do support trends that have been observed by Press Gazette and other media news outlets.

The statistics show that the number of journalists employed in the US has significantly since the Covid-19 crisis – and that the newspaper and magazine publishing sector appears to have suffered particularly badly.

Photo credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid