Report: Benton County Tops in US in Wage Growth

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Benton County leads the nation in wage growth, according to data released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bureau measured the nation's 339 largest "jobs" counties, those with 75,000 or more jobs in 2013, and Benton County's 9.9 percent wage growth from December 2013 to December 2014 was the highest in the U.S.

The list includes Benton, Washington and Pulaski counties in Arkansas. Benton County also ranked 9th in employment growth at 5.5 percent.

Washington County ranked 66th in employment growth and 87th in wage growth. Pulaski County was 143rd in wage growth and No. 272 in employment growth.

Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas' Sam M. Walton Business College, said she expected northwest Arkansas to fare well but was surprised to see Benton County at No. 1 in wage growth.

"For so long, we've seen Benton and Washington counties experience explosive employment growth," Deck told Arkansas Business. "But that hasn't always translated to wage growth. Benton County is experiencing very fast employment growth and very fast wage growth."

Deck attributed the wage growth to growth in the professional and business services sector in northwest Arkansas. Including professions such as lawyers, accountants and architects, the sector sees generally higher wages than others.

Deck said the sector accounts for a "huge chunk" of regional employment, second only to the trade, transportation and utilities sector, the region's top sector thanks to Wal-Mart and its vendors.

"It's interesting to note that across the board all sectors in Benton County saw wage growth except one, which was steady," she said.

Deck called Pulaski County's wage growth typical of the Little Rock metro's performance over the years. "Northwest is explosive and central Arkansas is its standard self with slow and steady growth," she said.

Deck noted the continued urban-rural divide in Arkansas.

"This is something we've been looking at for a long time, and it's everywhere, not just in Arkansas," she said. "Population growth continues to be centered in the core metro areas."

**This article is excerpted from Mark Carter’s article on Arkansas Business. You can find the original located at Arkansas Business.

Last modified onTuesday, 15 March 2016 13:25