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Five Worst Cities for Wage Growth

Five Worst Cities for Wage Growth

By Lydia Dishman,

Even though the national unemployment rate is at its lowest level in three years, workers in many locations are still feeling the slump -- particularly when it comes to their paychecks.

Online salary database recently released its year-end 2011 results for The PayScale Index, a study of changes in wages for full-time, private-sector employees. Besides providing a national trend line, the Index looks closely at differences in wage growth by city.

PayScale analytics manager Katie Bardaro says that metro areas with decreased or flat incomes lack economic diversity and suffer from a high presence of weak industries, such as construction and hospitality. “Until the economy is able to rise above the aftereffects of the Great Recession, there is little hope for these areas to experience strong wage growth,” Bardaro says.

The following list shows the five metro areas with the lowest wage growth between Q4 2010 and Q4 2011 according to The PayScale Index. Also included is a job in one of the area’s dominant industries along with the current salary for that job in that metro area.

1. Riverside, California
Q4 YOY Wage Growth: -3.1 Percent

The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area -- also known as the Inland Empire -- has several things working against it. Its unemployment rate of 13.2 percent -- among the highest in the nation in regions of more than 1 million people -- forces educated workers to commute to coastal counties, according to the Inland Empire Economic Parternship.

“Riverside, which suffered a tremendous amount when the housing bubble burst, has not yet recovered from the wreckage in the housing market, both for real estate and construction,” Bardaro says. That devastation in the housing and construction industry has pushed wages in Riverside down almost 7 percent since their peak in 2008.

Construction worker salary: $39,484

Search for jobs in Riverside, California.

2. Baltimore
Q4 YOY Wage Growth: -0.1 Percent

Wages in Baltimore dove down then zoomed back up in 2011, finishing the year about where they started. Though a smaller population makes Baltimore more susceptible to wage swings, the real issue, according to Bardaro, is the city’s ongoing unemployment, which stood at 9.3 percent as of November 2011.

The good news is that six of Baltimore’s top 10 employers are healthcare providers, according to the Baltimore Development Corp. “Since healthcare is a relatively strong labor market and likely to see increasing demand as the population ages, Baltimore may experience an improvement in [its] labor market since it is heavily focused in healthcare,” Bardaro says.

Certified nurse assistant salary: $34,754

Search for jobs in Baltimore.

3. Tampa
Q4 YOY Wage Growth: -0.1 Percent

Good thing Tampa’s got plenty of sunshine, because wage news there isn’t bright. Pay hasn’t budged all that much since the economy tanked in 2008. Tampa’s unemployment rate is still above the national average thanks in part to the presence of several financial institutions, which experienced staff cuts. Couple Tampa’s reliance on tourism with fewer people taking vacations, and it’s no wonder the area is struggling to bounce back.

The relative strength of the various industries in Tampa affects the area’s wage growth. While some industries -- such as healthcare and IT -- have done well in recent years, others -- such as transportation and hospitality -- have done poorly, Bardaro says. “The wage effects in these industries offset each other, which causes Tampa to have relatively no wage growth since Q1 2010,” she says.

Personal banker salary: $43,505

Search for jobs in Tampa.

4. Dallas
Q4 YOY Wage Growth: 0.1 Percent

Energy and telecommunications are mostly responsible for the paychecks of residents in Dallas/Fort Worth. Yet, while this area boasts the 14th largest metro economy in the world, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, it’s also home to major corporations in hard-hit industries such as finance and airline travel. “Even though there is an energy presence in Dallas, it is overshadowed by larger industries, such as retail and financial operations, two industries that have experienced little wage growth when compared to oil and gas exploration, the main industry in Houston,” says Bardaro.

Retail sales associate salary: $23,322

Search for jobs in Dallas.

5. New York City
Q4 YOY Wage Growth: 0.3 Percent

Wall Street was at the epicenter of the economic crisis with thousands of jobs lost when big financial firms shut down or retrenched. But New York City also has a good share of fast-growing startups thanks to initiatives such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Council on Technology and Innovation. “Although the recession is over, the aftereffects are still being felt in the financial world,” Bardaro says. “For this reason, wages in New York have been slow to recover.”

Certified public accountant salary: $68,805

Search for jobs in New York City.

Source: All salary data is provided by Salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time, private-sector employees with five to eight years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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