Real wages are having trouble keeping up with prices
After adjusting for inflation, wages have dropped in many of the nation's largest counties.
By Les Christie, staff writer

NEW YORK ( - Real wages are not exactly going through the roof.

For the 24-month period through the second quarter of 2005, the inflation-adjusted wages of an average American grew just 1 percent or so, according to statistics reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Despite overall sluggish wage growth, there are still areas of strength; the majority of the 316 largest counties in the United States -- those with employee rolls of 75,000 or more -- reported average wage increases that outpaced inflation for the 24 months ended June 30, 2005, the latest county data available from the BLS. Forty four of the counties had real wage growth of 3 percent or more during the period

The BLS data is derived from summaries of employment and total pay of workers covered by state and federal unemployment insurance legislation. The data has not been adjusted for changes that employers later reported to the BLS.

Among the large counties, wages were highest in New York, New York, where they averaged $1,350 per week, 7.4 percent higher than two years ago. New York compensation grew at a pace greater than the inflation rate of 5.9 percent.

The county where wages grew the fastest was Collin County, Texas, north of Dallas, where mean wages grew by more than 16 percent over the 24-month period and real mean wages increased by nearly 10 percent.

But in Clayton County, Georgia, outside Atlanta, weekly wages fell to $745 from $779, a drop of more than 4 percent -- nearly 11 percent when inflation is factored in, the worst performance in the nation.

The only other county that reported negative wage growth was King County, Washington but when inflation was added to the calculation a total of 105 of the large counties recorded lower mean real wages. Here's a look at how all the largest counties are faring. (Click on the state or county heading in the table below to more easily find your own.) Top of page

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