Despite the gloomy economy and bleak job outlook, some local job markets are seeing rising wages and job growth.
If you run complex machinery for a Midwestern manufacturer, or you’re a white-collar or blue-collar worker in oil, mining or gas in an energy-dominated city, you’ve got the best shot of anyone at getting a raise despite the economy.
While employers are having difficulty filling skilled manufacturing jobs and healthcare jobs, if you’re in an area that’s been depressed for some time, an employer may not feel pressure to raise wages even when job candidates are scarce, says Dennis Jacobe, Gallup’s chief economist.
Weekly pay is rising in the Energy Belt, which runs from Texas to the Dakotas, says Joel Kotkin, director of the Urban Futures program at Chapman University in Orange, California, and executive editor of NewGeography.com.
Anywhere there’s fossil-fuel expansion, skilled workers are in short supply, so companies may have to raise pay to attract employees, Kotkin says. “Those areas have been growing rapidly, the workforce has aged and people aren’t studying geology,” he says.
NewGeography’s top cities for job growth include five Texas towns:
Measuring local job-market conditions can be tricky, says David Hiles, a branch chief at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you look solely for rising job salaries, you might find them in a county where layoffs have pushed lower-paid, less-experienced workers from the market. In those cases, the remaining workforce may have a higher average salary.
To find real economic recovery, look for areas with both rising wages and rising job growth, Hiles suggests.
The most recent BLS data from June 2011 shows wage increases and job growth in many counties across the US:
- Alabama: Mobile, Tuscaloosa
- Alaska: Anchorage
- Arizona: Maricopa
- Arkansas: Pulaski, Washington
- California: Fresno, Kern, Marin, Orange, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Ventura
- Colorado: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Weld
- Connecticut: Fairfield, Hartford
- Delaware: New Castle
- District of Columbia
- Florida: Broward, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami, Orange, Pasco
- Georgia: Chatham, Cobb, Gwinnett, Muscogee
- Hawaii: Honolulu
- Illinois: Cook, Du Page, Kane, Madison, Peoria, Rock Island, St. Clair, Sangamon, Will, Winnebago
- Indiana: Allen, Hamilton, Lake, Marion, Vanderburgh
- Iowa: Linn, Polk, Scott
- Kansas: Johnson, Shawnee
- Kentucky: Jefferson
- Louisiana: Caddo, Jefferson, Lafayette, Orleans
- Maine: Cumberland
- Maryland: Frederick, Harford, Montgomery, Prince George’s
- Massachusetts: Barnstable, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, Worcester
- Michigan: Genesee, Ingham, Kent, Macomb, Oakland, Saginaw
- Minnesota: Hennepin, Ramsey, St. Louis, Stearns
- Missouri: Boone, Clay, St. Charles
- Nebraska: Douglas, Lancaster
- New Hampshire: Hillsborough, Rockingham
- New Jersey: Bergen, Hudson, Passaic
- New York: Bronx, Dutchess, Erie, Kings, Monroe, Nassau, New York, Orange, Queens, Rockland, Suffolk, Westchester
- North Carolina: Buncombe, Catawba, Durham, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Wake
- North Dakota: Cass
- Ohio: Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lake, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Stark, Summit
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma, Tulsa
- Oregon: Clackamas, Jackson, Lane, Multnomah, Washington
- Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Northampton, Philadelphia, Washington, Westmoreland, York
- Rhode Island: Providence
- South Carolina: Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Spartanburg
- South Dakota: Minnehaha
- Tennessee: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Williamson
- Texas: All counties except: Bell, Collin, McLennan and Williamson
- Utah: Davis, Salt Lake, Utah
- Vermont: Chittenden
- Virginia: Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, Prince William,
- Washington: Benton, Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, Whatcom, Yakima
- Wisconsin: Brown, Dane, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Waukesha, Winnebago
While past data can’t predict future raises, it can tell you where average salaries continued to go up during the recession. The Brookings Institute’s MetroMonitor Index shows nearly 50 cities where wages have been rising since the recession began at the end of 2007 through the first quarter of 2011. The top 10 were:
- Bakersfield, California: 6.8 percent wage increase
- Modesto, California: 4.5 percent
- Palm Bay, Florida: 3.7 percent
- District of Columbia: 3.5 percent
- Augusta, Georgia: 3.3 percent
- El Paso: 3.0 percent
- Fresno, California: 3.0 percent
- Virginia Beach: 2.8 percent
- San Diego: 2.6 percent
- Oklahoma City and Wichita: 2.5 percent
That doesn’t mean the conditions in those cities will be perfect for you to get a raise next month, but if current economic conditions are at least as favorable to raises as they were then, you could expect similar results.