Average weekly wage in Washington County rises nearly 10%, Pulaski County up 6%

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 274 views 

By nearly all measures, the economy of Northwest Arkansas has been experiencing robust growth. Another strong indicator surfaced this week.

Washington County is one of the top 10 counties in the U.S. in terms of average weekly wage increases, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Tuesday (March 7). From September 2015 to September 2016, Washington County reported a year-over-year percentage increase in average weekly wage at 9.5%, which ranked No. 9 among the largest 345 counties in the U.S. Washington County’s average weekly wage in the third quarter last year was $862, according to the latest available data from the BLS.

In Benton County, the weekly wages were higher at $934, which ranked third in Arkansas, but that was a 2% percent decrease from the third quarter of 2015, a year-over-year change that ranked No. 342 among the nation’s largest counties.

In the third quarter, the highest average weekly wages in Arkansas were found in the following counties: Calhoun $1,014, Little River $971, Benton $934, Pulaski $922, and Union $872. Washington County was sixth.

“As a region, Northwest Arkansas has low unemployment rates and consequently a really tight labor market,” said economist Mervin Jebaraj, assistant director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas. “Under these conditions, it is not at all surprising to see the upward pressure on wages, as firms compete with each other to hire the best talent.”

Jebaraj added that he expects to see continued upward pressure on wages, as long as tight labor market conditions persist.

The average weekly wage increased 6% over the year in Pulaski County, the state’s most populous, growing to $922 in the third quarter of 2016. That ranked No. 130. In the largest two counties in the state’s third largest metro area, wages in Sebastian County grew 4.4% to $787, and Crawford County wages grew 1.9% to $647.

Michael Pakko, chief economist for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Institute for Economic Advancement, said only six of Arkansas’ 75 counties saw declines in average weekly wages over the same period. Although the other counties are smaller, five other counties in Arkansas saw increases in average weekly wages even larger than in Washington County: Randolph (11.5%), (Marion (10.9%), Grant (10.7%), Pike (10.0%) and Miller (9.8%).

Clark County in Nevada reported the largest year-over-year percentage increase in the U.S. in terms of average weekly wage at 12.2%. The 10 U.S. counties with the highest year-over-year percent increases in average weekly wage in the third quarter were:
• Clark, Nev.: 12.2%
• Manatee, Fla.: 10.7%
• Hillsborough, NH: 10.4%
• Elkhart, Ind.: 10.3%
• Boone, Ky.: 10.3%
• McLean, Ill.: 10.2%
• Dane, Wis.: 10.1%
• Middlesex, Mass.: 9.8%
• Washington, Ark.: 9.5%
• Alachua, Fla.: 9.5%

The 10 U.S. counties in terms of highest average weekly wage in the third quarter included:
• Santa Clara, Calif.: $2,260
• San Mateo, Calif.: $2,098
• San Francisco, Calif.: $1,892
• New York, NY: $1,879
• Washington, DC: $1,728
• Suffolk, Mass.: $1,660
• Arlington, Va.: $1,648
• King, Wash.: $1,582
• Middlesex, Mass.: $1,555
• Fairfax, Va.: $1,546

The U.S. average weekly wage increased 5.4% over the year, growing to $1,027 in the third quarter of 2016. In Arkansas, the average weekly wage was $794 in the third quarter of 2016, a healthy increase of 5.2% from the same quarter in 2015.

Full-year employment and wage numbers for 2016 will be available in September.

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