Weekly wages in some of New York state’s largest counties were well above the national average for the second quarter of 2019, but wages in the Twin Counties fell short of that bar, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Average weekly wages in all 18 large counties in New York increased from the second quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of 2019,” according to the report.
Large counties are those with annual average employment levels of 75,000 or more during the prior year.
The three counties with the largest increase in weekly wages compared to 2018 were Bronx County, with a 5.7% increase; Oneida County, 4.8%; and Westchester County, at 4.7%, Chief Regional Economist Martin Kohli from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Growth figures for small counties were not released, according to the report.
The national average weekly salary was $1,095 during the second quarter of 2019, the most recent available statistics. In New York state, the average weekly wage was $1,347, largely driven by higher wages downstate, in New York and Westchester counties.
New York County topped the list statewide, with an average weekly wage of $2,109, ranking the county fourth nationwide among the 355 largest U.S. counties. In New York, Westchester County came in second at $1,417. Eight counties statewide exceeded the national average.
In the Twin Counties, the news was not as good. While unemployment figures in both counties remain low and wages have seen some growth, in Columbia County the average weekly wage was $824, and in Greene County it was $891.
Jeff Friedman, president and executive director of the Greene County Chamber of Commerce, said large cities tend to skew the figures with regard to the national average.
“Wages will be higher in urban and suburban areas than in rural areas, but in our microcosm of who we are, we have been experiencing growth,” Friedman said.
He acknowledged there is work to be done, “but overall, our economic numbers are positive,” Friedman said.
“We have had solid growth in our average wage,” Friedman said. “We have lagged behind national averages historically, but we have seen growth in the number of per capita earnings and household earnings have been growing. We tend to be in the middle of the pack in these numbers. Do I see continued growth? Yes, because obviously we have had great job growth numbers and we have been attracting businesses that pay a higher wage.”
If the national economy remains strong, Friedman said he expects to see continued growth.
In Columbia County, there has also been some growth, but wages have not kept pace with the national average. But unemployment remains consistently low.
“The state labor department’s most recent wage and employment data continues to show modest growth quarter over quarter,” said F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation. “Both in terms of wage and employment growth and continued low unemployment, Columbia County is ahead of averages in other upstate counties.”
Bringing higher paying jobs to the county remains a key goal, he added.
“These figures highlight that while there have been many positive trends in the local economy in recent months, it remains a top priority to attract high wage 21st century jobs,” Tucker said.
Of the state’s 44 small counties — those with fewer than 75,000 workers — 42 reported weekly wages below the national average of $1,095. Only Schenectady and Steuben counties, at $1,115 and $1,127, respectively, exceeded the national average.
The county with the lowest average weekly wage was Yates County in western New York state, where average weekly wages were $690.
“When all 62 counties in New York were considered, all but 19 had wages below $1,000,” according to the report. “Twenty counties reported average weekly wages less than $850, and 23 had wages from $850 to $999.”