Employment up, wages down, in large counties

June 29, 2012

From December 2010 to December 2011, employment increased in 266 of the 322 largest U.S. counties. The U.S. average weekly wage decreased over the year by 1.7 percent to $955 in the fourth quarter of 2011.

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In December 2011, national employment was 131.3 million, up by 1.4 percent or 1.8 million jobs, from December 2010. The 322 U.S. counties with 75,000 or more jobs accounted for 70.7 percent of total U.S. employment and 76.4 percent of total wages. These 322 counties had a net job growth of 1.2 million over the year, accounting for 68.8 percent of the overall U.S. employment increase.

Kern, California, posted the largest increase, with a gain of 5.3 percent over the year, compared with national job growth of 1.4 percent. Within Kern, the largest employment increase occurred in natural resources and mining, which gained 8,896 jobs over the year (16.7 percent).

The over-the-year decline in average weekly wages is one of only five declines in the history of the series, which dates back to 1978. The decline from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the fourth quarter of 2011 is the only one in which employment simultaneously grew over the year. Total wages decreased by 0.5 percent over the year.

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Smaller bonus payments in the fourth quarter of 2011 contributed to the decrease in the average weekly wage. In contrast, the average weekly wage declines posted in the first two quarters of 2009 resulted from significant declines in both employment and wages. During this period, total wage declines were 5.0 percent or more, while employment losses were above 3.0 percent.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Olmsted, Minnesota, had the largest over-the-year decrease in average weekly wages with a loss of 21.3 percent. Within Olmsted, a total wage decline of $287.3 million (-29.1 percent) in the education and health services industry had the largest impact on the county’s decrease in average weekly wages.

These data are from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program. To learn more, see "County Employment and Wages: Fourth Quarter 2011" (HTML) (PDF), news release USDL-12-1290. These data are derived from summaries of employment of workers covered by state and federal unemployment insurance. Data for 2011 are preliminary and subject to revision.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Editor's Desk, Employment up, wages down, in large counties on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2012/ted_20120629.htm (visited April 19, 2014).

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