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Robert Trigaux

Wage hikes in Tampa Bay counties show some muscle, and what's cooking in Alachua?

Dollarsinhandstockphoto  Wake up and good morning. Tampa Bay area counties may be losing jobs but those that have them saw better wage increases than most folks in the country. From December 2008 to December 2009, employment declined in 325 of the 335 largest U.S. counties, including Pinellas (down 5.5 percent), Hillsborough (down 6.1 percent) and Pasco (down 4.4 percent). So say preliminary data just out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here's the full BLS report.

Nationally, among those 334 largest counties, Trumbull, Ohio, posted the largest percentage employment decline, with a loss of 8.6 percent over the year, compared with a national job decrease of 4.1 percent. But it's not as if any big county had a bull run in 2009. Arlington, Va. (an adjacent suburb of Washington, D.C.), experienced the largest over-the-year percentage increase in employment among the largest counties in the U.S. with a gain of just 0.5 percent. 

The good news for Tampa Bay is that wages by county increased from Dec. 2008 to Dec. 2009, in most cases a lot better than the country as a whole. Here's the BLS breakout:

            * Pinellas: Average wage: $852. Increase: 5.7 percent. Rank among 334 counties: 21.

            * Hillsborough: Average wage: $927. Increase: 5.8 percent. Rank among 334 counties: 17.

            * Pasco: Average wage: $680. Increase: 1.8 percent. Rank among 334 counties: 241.

For perspective, the U.S. average weekly wage increased by 2.5 percent over the year. A couple observations. Hillsborough workers on average were paid $75 more a month than those in Pinellas and a whopping $247 more per month than folks in Pasco. And while Pinellas and Hillsborough ranked 21st and 17th in wage increases last year, already low Pasco trailed far behind at 241. Pasco has its work cut out trying to raise that average wage.

Finally a few BLS highlights from Florida's larger counties:

            * Which county boasts the highest average weekly wage? Palm Beach at $967.

            * Which county boasts the lowest average weekly wage? Lake at $674.

            * Which county boasts the lowest annual increase (by percentage) in weekly wages? Seminole at $791 up 0.8 percent.

Finally, which county boasts the greatest annual increase (by percentage) in weekly wages? Alachua at $810 up a startling 10.1 percent, a gain of $74 a week. Why startling? Because only one larger county nationwide had a faster rate of wage growth last year (Douglas County in Colorado, up 26 percent). So congratulations, Alachua (home to Gainesville). Impressive in such a recession year.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:00am]


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