American Cities Where Wages Are Plummeting

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10. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
> 1 yr. wage growth: -0.8%
> Average weekly wage: $849
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 13.0%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 11.2%
> 1 yr. employment change: +7.8%

The average wage per week in the Santa Cruz metropolitan area was $849 in the fourth quarter of 2012, down slightly from $856 a year prior. Although employment grew by 7.8% between December 2011 and December 2012, much of the growth was in lower-paying fields. The leisure and hospitality industry, a low-paying occupation and one of the larger private industries in the Santa Cruz area, grew by 11.7% during that time. Other prominent industries that pay generally higher wages grew at far smaller rates. For instance, employment in the education and health services grew by less than 1%.

9. Sandusky, Ohio
> 1 yr. wage growth: -0.8%
> Average weekly wage: $701
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 8.6%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 7.3%
> 1 yr. employment change: -1.7%

Unemployment in Sandusky fell from December 2011 to December 2012, but this was due to a shrinking labor force. In fact, the number of non-farm jobs in the metro actually area fell 1.7% between December 2011 and the same month in 2012. This included a drop in the number of jobs in generally higher paying industries such as business services and manufacturing. The number of people working in the lower-paying leisure and hospitality industry, however, increased by 3.4% in December 2012 from December 2011.

Also Read: What Americans Do When Not at Work

8. Ocean City, N.J.
> 1 yr. wage growth: -1.1%
> Average weekly wage: $737
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 16.3%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 17.3%
> 1 yr. employment change: +6.5%

Ocean City is one of just eight metropolitan areas where average weekly wages declined by more than 1% from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2012. Despite employment growing by 6.5% between December 2011 and December 2012, a jump in the number of people coming back into the labor force pushed the unemployment rate up an entire percentage point during that time period. Ocean City was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, which likely led to an increase in unemployment in late 2012.

7. Las Cruces, N.M.
> 1 yr. wage growth: -1.2%
> Average weekly wage: $678
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 7.0%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 6.7%
> 1 yr. employment change: -1.0%

The average weekly wage of $678 in Las Cruces in the fourth quarter of 2012 was at its lowest point since 2008. Much of the wage decline could be due to increases in lower-paying jobs in lieu of higher-paying ones. The public sector, the largest in the Las Cruces area and generally higher paying, shrank by 4.1% from December 2011 to December 2012. The largest private industry, the generally lower-paying education and health services, grew its job count by 3.1%.

6. Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Wash.
> 1 yr. wage growth: -1.3%
> Average weekly wage: $894
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 9.9%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 9.7%
> 1 yr. employment change: -1.1%

The 1.3% wage decline from the fourth quarter of 2011 to 2012 was actually less severe than in previous quarters. From the third quarter or 2011 to the third quarter of 2012, average weekly wages dropped by 7.1%. The Kennewick area experienced a spike in unemployment last year due to the completion of several stimulus projects. Some of these lost jobs were in higher-paying occupations, likely contributing to the overall wage decline in 2012. For example, professional and business services lost 7.9% of jobs in 2012 compared to 2011.