More than half of all travel industry jobs in the U.S. pay a middle-class salary or higher.
That was one of the findings of a new study released Tuesday by the U.S. Travel Assn., the trade group for the nation's travel industry.
The study, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics since 1979, was intended to show what the trade group has been saying for years: Travel-related jobs pay well and lead to prosperous careers.
The travel industry is the nation's sixth-largest employer, supporting 14.4 million jobs, according to the trade group. Since the recession, the travel industry has been one of the nation's fastest-growing job producers.
But some economists have brushed off the growth, saying many of those jobs are minimum-wage positions in restaurants and hotels.
Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Travel Assn., said the study showed that "travel jobs are really valuable jobs."
The travel industry produces 3.7 million jobs that pay middle-class wages, ranking ninth in the country behind the manufacturing, retail, construction and educational services industries.
The trade group defines "middle class" as those who earn between 75% and 200% of the median U.S. wage, or roughly $37,500 to $100,000 per year.
Two out of five workers who start their careers in the travel industry go on to earn more than $100,000 per year, according to the study.
"This study also shows that the travel industry is a pathway to the middle class," said David Huether, senior vice president for research and economics at the U.S. Travel Assn.
Follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin