American Cities Where Wages Are Soaring

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10. Topeka, Kan.
> 1-yr. wage growth: 8.1%
> Average weekly wage: $823
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 6.1%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 6.0%
> 1-yr. employment change: +0.9%

The average weekly wage in the Topeka area grew 8.1% between the fourth quarter of 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2012 to $823. Wages grew consistently each year since they were an average of $730 in the fourth quarter of 2008. Over the past several years, the food industry has been growing at a steady clip, with companies such as Frito-Lay and Del Monte adding jobs. Still, the unemployment rate in the Topeka area was 6% in December 2012, nearly unchanged from the same month in 2011.

9. Dalton, Ga.
> 1-yr. wage growth: 8.2%
> Average weekly wage: $769
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 12.5%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 11.0%
> 1-yr. employment change: -0.2%

Workers in the Dalton metropolitan area received an average raise of $58 a week from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2012, an increase of 8.2%. Before 2012, fourth-quarter average weekly wages had been dropping since 2009. Dalton has experienced some growth in generally higher-paying industries of late. Government jobs rose 6% in the area between December 2011 and December 2012, while professional and business services jobs rose 5.1%.

Also Read: What Americans Do When Not at Work

8. Elkhart-Goshen, Ind.
> 1-yr. wage growth: 9.1%
> Average weekly wage: $782
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 10.9%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 9.5%
> 1-yr. employment change: +5.5%

The average weekly wage in Elkhart rose $65 between December 2011 and December 2012, when pay climbed to $782 per week. The Elkhart area was hit hard by the most recent economic downturn as demand for its key industry, RV manufacturing, plummeted. The unemployment rate hit a high of 20.2% in March 2009. However, the area’s manufacturing base, which comprises nearly half of all the area’s jobs, has been making a significant comeback, growing employment 7.4% from December 2011 to December 2012. Some of the area’s RV plants have announced plans to continue hiring in 2013.

7. Cheyenne, Wyo.
> 1-yr. wage growth: 9.5%
> Average weekly wage: $867
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 6.8%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 5.6%
> 1-yr. employment change: +2.7%

Cheyenne, like much of Wyoming, has benefited in recent years from an oil boom, which brought high-paying jobs to the area. Jobs in trade, transportation and utilities — the area’s largest employment sector — rose 4.2% from December 2011 to December 2012. In addition, jobs in mining, logging and construction rose 6.9% at the same time. There were approximately 30 oil companies operating in Laramie County as of 2012, County Planner Gary Kranse told the Wyoming Eagle Tribune.

6. Odessa, Texas
> 1-yr. wage growth: 9.6%
> Average weekly wage: $1,105
> Dec. 2011 unemployment: 4.6%
> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 3.5%
> 1-yr. employment change: +8.3%

The unemployment rate in the Odessa area fell to just 3.5% in December 2012 from the already low 4.6% rate a year earlier. The low unemployment and high wage growth likely can be attributed to new oil and gas exploration jobs in the Permian Basin. And this trend likely will continue in the near future, Waco Economist Ray Perryman said in an email to the Odessa American in June. “Current levels of oil and gas activity create a situation of high labor demand on a sustained basis,” Perryman said. The number of jobs in mining, logging and construction grew 14.7% between December 2011 and December 2012, while jobs in trade, transportation and utilities grew 11.8%.