Durham County average weekly wage down in last year’s second quarter

Jan. 08, 2013 @ 08:16 PM

Durham County had the fourth-largest year-over-year decrease in average weekly wage among large U.S. counties in the second quarter of 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The county’s average weekly wage fell 3.6 percent to $1,180 in the second quarter of 2012 compared with the same period in the prior year, according to preliminary data released by the bureau on Tuesday.

It was ranked 325th out of 328 U.S. counties with annual employment levels of 75,000 or more in 2011, when ranked by average weekly wage percentage growth.

The last time the county’s average weekly wage was lower was in the third quarter of 2010, when the average weekly wage was $1,161.

While the county ranked toward the bottom of the list for the second quarter of 2012, it had ranked toward the top for the first quarter. It ranked No. 31 for its percentage increase in average weekly wage in the first quarter.

Jennifer Cruz, an economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, said the average weekly wages are dependent on a lot of factors.

The wage data includes non-wage cash payments such as bonuses, or employer compensations to deferred compensation plans such as 401(k) plans and stock options.

In addition, Cruz said other factors that could be affecting the data are employment factors and non-economic changes, such as if the bureau getting better data in one quarter compared to another.

“You might see a decrease over the year because bonuses were not paid this year, or delayed,” Cruz said. “It could just be a difference in the amount paid…”

Mike Walden, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at N.C. State University, said the county’s ranking from one quarter to the next on the list would not raise a red flag. He said he would track the data across several years.

In general, Walden said, a large portion of the Research Triangle Park, which has high-paying jobs, is in Durham County and a lot of retail in other parts would pay more moderately.

“It’s going to be a mix,” he said. “Being a part of the Triangle area, it’s still well-positioned to attract business.”

Walden said that at a national level, there has been modest wage improvement.

“It’s very, very modest,” he said.

Casey Steinbacher, president of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, said in an email that chamber officials review, but don't overreact to quarterly fluctuations in average weekly wages. Retail and service sector jobs can impact the average weekly wage in certain quarters, she said.
Steinbacher also said that even with the decrease, the county's average weekly wage was still the highest of the counties listed in the state.For the nation, average weekly wages increased 1.3 percent to $903 year-over-year in the second quarter of last year, according to the bureau’s release.

There were 233 counties among the 328 large U.S. counties that had over-the-year increases in average weekly wages, according to the bureau. Washington, Ore., had the largest gain, with an increase of 8.5 percent.

Eighty-six counties saw decreases, including Durham County. Williamson, Texas, had the largest average weekly wage decrease with a loss of 17 percent.

The bureau reported that within Williamson, total wages in trade, transportation and utilities fell 30.5 percent year-over-year.

The bureau said the decline represents a return to pay levels seen previously following a big payout in the second quarter of 2011. Williamson had also seen big payouts in the first quarter of 2012.