Willy Constantino began laying tile when he was a teenager - with a little nudge from his older brother.
When he moved to the area in 1999 from Idaho, Constantino quickly got a job with a flooring company earning $20 to $25 an hour.
The problem is, that was then.
"It's good money," he said. "I wish I could get that now."
These days, Constantino is still doing tile installation, but at a fraction of the money he once made.
Constantino said he and his wife recently finished a shower job at a Prescott home that took them seven days to complete, and they got $700 for it.
Do the math and it's obvious to see the gaping hole in Constantino's wallet.
"We took the job so we could pay our bills," he said. "I'm willing to do what it takes to get through it."
The hourly wage Constantino estimates he now earns laying tile is in the $8 to $10 range. He took a pizza delivery job three months ago to bolster his bottom line.
Working five days a week, Constantino said he earns minimum wage if he's in the store and $4 an hour plus tips if he's delivering pies.
To save money, he quit smoking and doesn't drink alcohol, and he still wonders how he's going to further tighten his belt to give his family financial health.
"I'm still broke," he said.
While an unexpected visit to the dentist or a sudden trip to the vet for the dog cuts into his wallet, Constantino remains upbeat.
"Fifty bucks a day is better than zero," he said. "I'm makin' it."
That's what it really comes down to for many people here in Yavapai County and beyond.
Parade magazine's annual report of what people earn appears in today's edition of The Daily Courier. The report presents a cross-sample of annual earnings ranging from a county judge at $141,600 to a lunchroom worker making $8,670 to Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, who makes $14.5 million.
On the home front, wages are bit lower than they are for a star ballplayer.
The 2010 Occupational Employment & Hourly Wage Estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the mean, or average, wage of all occupations in Yavapai County is $18.04 an hour, and the median, or midpoint, hourly rate is $14.48.
The statistics come from a semi-annual mail survey that the OES program gathers on wage and salary workers in nonfarm categories to create wage estimates for about 800 occupations.
Data from self-employed people is not collected and is not part of the estimates. Program staff produce the estimates by geographical area, industry and ownership.
Fast-food cooks earn on average $8.80 an hour, while bartenders make $9.89 an hour, and hotel, motel and resort desk clerks earn $10.62 per hour.
The survey shows lawyers earn $59.10 an hour, taxi drivers make $9.98 an hour and pharmacy technicians earn $14.60 an hour.
Data from other counties show that Yavapai County isn't the best or the worst as it relates to wages.
The average wage for all occupations in Mohave County is $16.97, the average in Maricopa County is $20.99, and in Yuma, it's $16.40. The statewide average wage is $20.38.
Rick Van Sickle, a labor market analyst with the Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics, said the data doesn't include overtime or number of hours worked.
But, Van Sickle said, county wages are about in the middle of the pack compared to other counties.
"There are several counties that pay better and then there are counties that pay less," he said.
Over at the Northern Arizona Council of Governments office in Prescott, more than 150 people a month are going through orientation and looking for work, according to Regional Director Teri Drew.
She said the average wage for prospective employees with on-the-job training is $9 an hour, mainly in the solar energy industry, administrative and light manufacturing sectors.
Drew believes wages are lower now than they were before the recession because businesses are bouncing back and hiring cautiously.
As for Constantino, he said he's seeing a little uptick in tile jobs, but he still plans to keep his pizza delivery gig as he focuses on his financial freedom.
"We're going to get out of debt and live within our means," he said.
What they make...
Following is a mix of county occupation wage information.
Occupation Avg. Wage
Tax preparers $18.87
Social workers $25.48
Floral designers $11.03
Writers & authors $17.46
Security guards $13.71
Short-order cooks $10.46
Taxi drivers $9.98
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 Occupational Employment & Hourly Wage Estimates
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