WNY wages up, but still lag behind U.S. and much of NYS

Jan 7, 2020

Employment is down slightly in Erie County compared to New York State and the rest of the country, but wages are up locally. That is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' lastest county-by-county figures.

BLS Regional Economist Bruce Bergman said wages in Erie County rose 3.9% from the 2nd quarter of 2018 to the 2nd quarter of 2019. That compares to 3.8% nationally and is nearly twice the increase in the cost of living.

In fact, wages were up across all 18 of New York's largest counties: those with employment greater than 75,000. That is the good news.

It is a different story across the state's 44 smaller counties.

"In terms of New York's smaller counties - those with less than 75,000 - 42 of them have average weekly wages that were below the U.S. average," Bergman said. "That's a pattern we've seen for quite some time. We don't see that changing very fast. That, again, has to do with the industry makeup oftentimes, as well as the cost of living.

Across all 62 counties in New York State, only 19 had average weekly wages above $1,000. In Erie County, those wages came in at $924, or about 15% lower than the national average of $1,095. Bergman said the trend for Erie wages is better over time.

"Looking at employment back to 2015 to 2019, there's really just a 3% increase in employment over the last five years, but meanwhile, average weekly wages grew by more than 10%," he said.

Bergman said education, health care and social assistance were industry leaders in New York for job creation, adding more than 60,000 jobs - or 3% - statewide, but wages grew faster in business and professional services jobs like accounting, legal aid and computer programming - at 5%.

The bureau has a tool on its website that allows anyone to data mine the latest workforce information by county. Bergman said it can provide some surprising facts, like the 2,283 local employees in the electrical equipment and appliance manufacturing ranks Erie 15th in all U.S. counties - making it an important industry locally and nationally.

"If you have one industry that you're looking at, you can actually see where that industry is in the state," he said. "So if you're an envelope manufacturer, you can see exactly where the competition is, or if you're an employee and you want to target your job search, this can help you."

Overall, the latest figures rank Erie County at 6th for employment and 7th for establishments in New York State, but 19th for wages. Way behind Erie is the rest of Western New York: Niagara at $763, followed by Genesee at $757, Cattaraugus at $734, Wyoming at $733, Chautauqua at $729, Orleans at $720 and Alleghany at $712.

The largest growth in average weekly wages in New York State could be found in Bronx County, at 5.7%, followed by Oneida County, at 4.8%, and Westchester County, at 4.7%.