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Date: 2024-07-16 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00008851
Economy ... USA
Wage Rates

ECONOMY ... Map: Where Workers’ Pay Has Risen the Most in Past Decade

Static image of an interactive graphic showing where wages have risen and fallen the most over the past decade.

Original article:
ALSO Wages-Winners-and Losers-WSJcom
Peter Burgess COMMENTARY
This article appeared in 2014. The 'Great Recession' of 2008-2009 had done its economic damage and President Obama was administering a reasonably strong American economy based on aggregate economic numbers. But aggregate economic numbers rarely tell the whole story especially in a large country with very diverse underlying socio-enviro-economic situations.

I concluded many years ago that making socio-enviro-economic policy based on averages and aggregates will never give an optimum policy, and more likely that the policy will be worse than useless. I believe this was the underlying intention of the framers of the US Constitution to allow for distinct differences between the programs of the States and the programs of the Federal Government. Intention is one thing ... actually making it work in a reasonable way is quite another!!!!!!!

As I see it, the political agenda in the USA is driven by those with money which translates into political influence and power. One man (person) one vote is a grand idea, but it does not translate into a majority of the population actually having much power and influence over what gets done in Washington and in State Capitals.

The idea of having two legislative assemblies in Washington ... the Senate and the House of Representaitves ... has something in common with the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the UK. Over time, in the UK, the House of Lords has become less and less powerful as a dynamic center of new legislation, but serves more as a safety valve to slow down misguided legislation to give time for more (and cooler) deliberation. In the USA the Senate as its membership and rules exist today has the power to effectively stop anything. More than anything else, the US Senate does not in any way reflect the idea of one person one vote.

It is sometimes said that 'people vote with their feet' ... meaning that people move to where there are the best opportunities. This article identifies where people are moving from and where they are moving to, but it is not clear why all of these moves are taking place. When I was a student in the late 1950s at Cambridge I wrote a paper on the location of industry in which I concluded that the classical reasons for where industry was located were changing because of new technologies and that more and more of employment was going to be located in places where the bosses or decision makers wanted to live. Looking at the current trends, I would suggest that a lot of the current migration is driven by the lack of affordable housing in many places together with the challenge of having suitable opportunities for two career families. All of this overlaid by what employers are looking for !!!!!!
Peter Burgess
ECONOMY ... Map: Where Workers’ Pay Has Risen the Most in Past Decade


December 11th, 2014 11:28 am ET

Unemployment is down. The recession is over. But even as much of the economic news is good, stagnant wages linger as a problem in the United States. Wages haven’t budged in a decade, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last week, President Barack Obama called on CEOs to do more to boost workers pay.

But the problem and the impacts of it are far from uniform.

Looking at wages over the last decade by county shows a complicated picture – and overall not a good one. About one-third of all U.S. counties have seen their average annual pay decline since 2004, according to data from BLS’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, when the figures are adjusted for inflation. Hundreds more have seen increases of 2% or less.

But there is a collection of counties running through the middle of the country that have seen increases – some of them large ones – as this map shows. That’s the inverse of the usual storyline that shows the coasts thriving while the middle of the country suffers.

This comparison isn’t perfect. It comes from looking at snapshots of two points in time, the annual 2004 and 2013 QCEW figures, and a range of factors played a role in the pay in all these communities before that time period. But the map and the numbers show that a lot of wage stagnation depends on where you live and what you do for a living. And as Washington turns its attention to the topic, there are a few important points to take away from the wage map and numbers.

Population: First, while the one-third of all counties have seen a decline in annual average pay, those counties hold about 46% of U.S. population. That shows you how densely populated some of those counties are.

So on that list for declining pay is not only tiny Loup County Nebraska, population 576, but also big cities like Los Angeles County, Calif., and big suburbs like Bergen County, N.J.

Big and growing communities were not immune from wage stagnation. The effects are far-reaching.

Politics: Politically speaking, these numbers show how wage stagnation cuts across the political spectrum – through primarily Democratic and Republican counties. This is not a red/blue problem.

Using 2012 voting as a measuring stick, there were about 700 counties that voted for President Barack Obama and about 280 of them have seen a decline in annual pay since 2004, about 40%. There were about 2,400 counties that voted for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 (counties supporting him were mostly less populous) and about 800 of them have seen declines in annual pay since 2004, or about 33%.

Energy: When you see that dark blue running through the middle of the country, one of the big movers in that pay growth has been energy – oil and gas extraction and refining. In a sense, they make this map look “better” than it is, where the experience of many Americans is concerned.

The seven counties that have seen the biggest growth in annual pay since 2004 when adjusted for inflation are all in North Dakota – Slope, Dunn, Williams, McKenzie, Stark Mountrail, Divide. And the leaps have been enormous, all in the area of ten of thousands of dollars. All those counties have become major oil producers in the past few years.

And further down on the wage growth list are counties in Texas, Montana and Oklahoma. Their growth in annual average pay shows how the oil boom has radically altered the fortunes of small communities across the country. A relatively small number of workers coming to town to earn good wages can make a county’s average skyrocket.

And even with all that in mind, the numbers on wage stagnation don’t tell the whole story.

Average annual pay still tends to be higher on the coasts and in the big cities than they are in rural Middle America. Overall, in terms of the number and kinds of jobs available, the economic diversity and greater wealth in urban areas is an advantage for many of the people who live there. (That’s something we’ll look at in an upcoming post.)

And, perhaps more important, the relative good and bad times represented in these numbers are, of course, subject to change.

If the dropping price of oil in the headlines now continues as a trend, it may mean that two years hence those booming counties have slowed considerably and the political and economic equation will have shifted again.

11:28 am ET Dec 11, 2014
The text being discussed is available at
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