NPT Biz: According to feds, El Paso just doesn’t pay
The entire news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is after the jump, but here’s the thing that jumps out as far as El Paso: four of the seven lowest-paying large counties in the United States were located in Texas — all along the border with Mexico. These four counties included Cameron ($538, 333rd), Hidalgo ($549, 332nd), Webb ($559, 331st), and El Paso ($601, 328th).
You can access labor statistics here.
COUNTY EMPLOYMENT AND WAGES IN TEXAS: THIRD QUARTER 2008
Employment Growth Widespread Throughout State
Twenty of the 24 largest counties in Texas reported increases in their employment levels
from September 2007 to September 2008. (Large counties are defined as those with employment of
75,000 or more as measured by 2007 annual average employment.) Potter County led the State and
ranked 2nd in the country with a job gain of 3.1 percent, closely followed by Montgomery’s 3.0
percent increase which ranked 3rd in the nation. Regional Commissioner Stanley W. Suchman
noted that employment fell in only three of the large Texas counties: Cameron, Webb, and
Jefferson. (Data for McLennan County did not meet disclosure requirements.)
In comparison, national employment decreased 0.8 percent during this 12-month period as
207 of the 334 large counties nationwide registered declines. Elkhart County, Ind., recorded the
largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment in the country, down 10.8 percent, while
Yakima, Wash., experienced the fastest growth, up 3.2 percent.
Among the 24 largest counties in Texas, employment in September 2008 was highest in
Harris County (2,047,200) with Dallas County a distant second (1,489,100). Three other counties,
Tarrant, Bexar, and Travis, had employment levels exceeding 500,000. Together, the 24 largest
Texas counties accounted for 78.6 percent of total employment within the State. Nationwide, the
334 largest counties made up 71.2 percent of total U.S. employment.
At $1,050 per week, Harris County also had the highest average weekly wage among the 24
largest counties in the State, followed by Dallas at $1,025. The fastest rate of increase in average
weekly wages among Texas’ large counties was in Montgomery where wages rose 5.5 percent from
the third quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2008. (See table 1.) Nationally, the average weekly
wage increased 2.8 percent over the year to $841 in the third quarter of 2008.
Employment and wage levels (but not over-the-year changes) are also available for the 230
counties in Texas with employment below 75,000. Among the smaller counties, more than 90
percent (212) had average weekly wages below the national average. (See table 2.)
Large County Wage Changes
Twelve of Texas’ 24 large counties recorded wage growth above the 2.8-percent national
increase from the third quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2008. (See table 1.) Montgomery
County’s 5.5-percent wage gain was the highest in the State and placed 18th in the national ranking.
Wages rose at a 4.2-percent pace in both Lubbock and Smith County, placing them 46th in the
national ranking. These counties were closely followed by Cameron and McLennan where wages
increased 4.1 percent (52nd). The slowest wage increase in the State’s largest counties was shared
by Brazoria and El Paso with a 0.8-percent gain (281st). No large county in Texas recorded an
Nationwide, Rutherford County, Tenn., ranked first in average weekly wage growth with an
increase of 17.3 percent from the third quarter of 2007. Yolo, Calif., was second with growth of 9.7
percent, followed by the counties of Madison, Ill. (9.2 percent), Suffolk, N.Y. (8.6 percent), and
Calcasieu, La. (7.8 percent).
Twenty-one large counties in the United State experienced over-the-year declines in average
weekly wages. Clayton, Ga., had the largest decrease (-14.6 percent), followed by the counties of
Santa Clara, Calif. and Duval, Fla. (-3.4 percent each), Gwinnett, Ga. (-3.1 percent), and Rock
Island, Ill. (-2.6 percent).
Large County Average Weekly Wages
Average weekly wage levels in 4 of the 24 large Texas counties ranked in the top 20 percent
of the 334 largest counties in the United States in the third quarter of 2008. These four highest-paid
counties had wages well above the U.S. average of $841 per week: Harris ($1,050, 24th), Dallas
($1,025, 32nd), Collin ($997, 40th), and Travis ($924, 62nd). Two additional Texas counties, Fort
Bend and Tarrant, reported wages slightly above the national average and ranked in the top onethird
Wages in the State’s 18 remaining large counties were below that of the nation, although 4
of these (Brazoria, Galveston, Jefferson, and Williamson) were within 5 percent of the national
average. In sharp contrast, four of the seven lowest-paying large counties in the United States were
located in Texas — all along the border with Mexico. These four counties included Cameron ($538,
333rd), Hidalgo ($549, 332nd), Webb ($559, 331st), and El Paso ($601, 328th).
Nationally, average weekly wages were higher than average in 108 of the largest 334
counties. New York, N.Y., held the top position among the highest-paid large counties with an
average weekly wage of $1,552. Santa Clara, Calif., was second with an average weekly wage of
$1,530, followed by Washington, D.C. ($1,391), San Mateo, Calif. ($1,374), and San Francisco,
Of the large counties in the United States, 226, or about two-thirds, had an average weekly
wage below that of the nation. The lowest wage in the third quarter of 2008 was reported in Horry,
S.C. ($537). Joining the Texas counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, and Webb among the bottom five
was Yakima, Wash. ($580). Wages in these five lowest-ranked counties were less than 40 percent
of the average weekly wage reported for the highest-ranked county, New York.
Average Weekly Wages in Smaller Counties in Texas
Eighteen of the 230 smaller counties in Texas – those with employment below 75,000 –
reported average weekly wages at or above the national average of $841. Five of these counties had
wage levels that exceeded $1,000 per week: Carson ($1,340), King ($1,300), Sutton ($1,233),
Roberts ($1,107), and Crane ($1,013). Kent County reported the lowest weekly wage among the
smaller counties averaging $406 in the third quarter of 2008. (See table 2.)
When all 254 counties in Texas were considered, all but 24 had wages below the national
average of $841. Fifty-nine reported average weekly wages under $550, 100 registered wages from
$550 to $649, 47 had wages from $650 to $749, 24 had wages from $750 to $840, and 24 had
wages of $841 or more per week. (See chart 1.) The 24 counties with above-average wages were
concentrated around the metropolitan areas of Austin, Amarillo, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and
Midland. The lower-paid counties, those with wages under $550, were generally located along the
Texas-Mexico border as well as the agricultural areas of the Texas Panhandle.