By Brian Kennedy and Dr. Patrick Jones
Creating jobs in a community is on the radar of every local official and community leader. However, most don’t simply want more jobs they want more high paying jobs. Creating jobs with higher salaries not only contribute more to the economy it allows residents to provide their families with a better future or provides a stronger sense of security in the event of a downturn. This, often difficult task, of growing the labor market by adding high wage jobs is a task Benton and Franklin Counties have been performing quite well at in recent years.
In the last three years Benton and Franklin Counties have been added a substantial number of high paying jobs to the labor market, often outpacing the state. Indicator 3.3.9 shows the annual growth rate and the net jobs added of those jobs with salaries that were 25% higher than the prior year’s overall average wage throughout the combined counties. And while one might expect these to come from a concentration in a particular industry, such as healthcare or the tech sector, the data show these additional jobs came an eclectic mix throughout the labor market.
This trend is a combination of two important employment datasets compiled by the Washington Employment Security Department. The average annual wage comes from the Quarterly Census for Employment and Wages (QCEW). This dataset uses employment data form all employees covered by unemployment insurance. For the occupational data looking at specific jobs’ annual wages, we turn to the Occupation Employment Statistics (OES). This dataset provides occupation specific employment counts and wages for nearly 840 different occupations across the state, ranging from bakers and butchers to financial analysts and web developers. Using the QCEW we can adjust the two counties’ average annual wage up by 25% and then using the OES dataset we can find the specific, local occupations that had annual incomes 25% higher than the prior year’s average annual wage. Indicator 3.3.9 tracks this year to year, showing the trend for how many “high paying” jobs were added to the labor market in Benton and Franklin Counties.
In total, there were 28,154 jobs in 2018 that paid over 25% higher than 2017 average annual wage; this equated to about 28% of all the jobs in the two county community. These occupations covered a very wide range, from those in the healthcare field such as doctors and dentists, to those in the trades such as sheet metal workers and electrical power-line installers.
In terms of net jobs added from year to year, the Benton Franklin MSA has been trending positive in the most recent three years. From 2015 to 2018 the local economy added 3,613 jobs that were 25% higher than the prior year’s average annual wage in the local community; a wage that ranged from about $60,000 to $62,000. Two thirds of those additional jobs came in 2017-2018 when nearly 2,400 high wage jobs were added.
Comparing the annual growth rate of the high paying net jobs, the two counties are, and have been, out-performing the state for the last two years. Over the 2016-2017 period, the state experienced a decline of 4.1% in jobs paying over 25% of the prior years’ average wage, while Benton and Franklin Counties posted a 3.1% increase. In the most recent data, 2017 to 2018, the combined counties’ growth rate (9.3%) more than tripled the state rate of 2.7%.
The number of net high wage jobs added in 2018 was actually the best year on record for the trend. The composition of nearly 2,400 high paying jobs that were added was very eclectic. The combined counties didn’t see a concentration in one industry or occupation that was leading the pack and the three occupations adding the most jobs came from very different backgrounds. Sales representatives for manufacturing and wholesale, with an average annual wage of $64,870 or roughly $2,500 more than 25% higher than 2017’s average annual wage, added the most high-wage jobs, about 770. Registered nurses added the second most, with 513, an occupation paying $65,690 on average or about $3,300 than 25% higher than 2017’s average annual wage. Rounding out the top three was the category construction supervisors of trades, with 171 additional jobs, paying the highest of the three at $76,913, nearly $15,000 more than 25% higher than 2017’s average annual wage. Of the nearly 2,400 high paying jobs added, 60% came from these top three occupations.
It’s every community’s goal to not only add jobs to the labor market but add good, high paying jobs. Either through good government policy, a desirable quality of life, a conglomeration of industries creating spillovers into other sectors, or more likely, some combination of all these, Benton and Franklin Counties have been hitting the mark with creating a substantial number of high wage jobs.