Just as the recession hit certain cities earlier than others, now the recovery is showing up first in some very fortunate locations. According to a wage study by online salary database PayScale.com, salaries in several geographic areas are starting to bounce back, particularly in places where the dominant industry is growing.
"When one industry dominates a region, they'll start to set standards for wages for all jobs," adds James Hatch, partner-in-charge of the Human Capital Practice at EisnerAmper, an accounting firm with offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Cayman Islands. "Companies competing for talent in those areas have to pay a bit more to keep up with the dominant industry."
Below are the five metro areas for wage growth and their percent of average wage increase between Q1 2010 and Q1 2011, according to The PayScale Index, a study of changes in wages for full-time, private employees. Also included is a job position in the town's dominant industry and the current salary for that job.
1. New York
Avg. Salary Increase: 1%
The New York City metro area has seen steady salary increases each quarter since Q2 2010. "The industries that really were affected by government intervention -- first being the financial services industry, which is largely in New York City -- are seeing wages picking up," explains Hatch.
Senior $87,400 per year:
Avg. Salary Increase: .9%
Boston workers' wages have benefited from growth in health care and finance. "Boston has a tremendous tie to financial services, with Fidelity and State Street," says Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at PayScale. "Boston is also a very big health care town."
Associate clinical research director: $102,300 per year
Avg. Salary Increase: .6%
Three out of the past four quarters have seen pay increases of at least a half percent in the Washington area. Lee attributes this outcome to nearby defense contracts and government agencies. Lower unemployment may also be contributing to slightly higher wages in the district, because of the competition for talent. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from March 2011, the D.C. area had an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, while the national average was 9.2 percent.
Information security analyst: $79,400 per year
Avg. Salary Increase: .5%
Since the first quarter of last year, wages in the Baltimore, Md. area have risen slightly each quarter. In fact, the third and fourth quarters of 2009 were the only periods during the recession when Baltimore's wages fell, an anomaly compared to most cities. Lee says government funding for defense and medical projects have helped prevent falling wages in Baltimore. However, Lee warns that government cutbacks could impact Baltimore's pay rates in the future.
Medical lab technician: $40,900 per year
Avg. Salary Increase: .3%
Wages in Houston, Texas, fluctuated quite a bit during the recession, but an increased focus on energy issues is among the factors aiding the area's recovery. Says Lee, "Houston is bouncing back. It's an energy town. It didn't dip as much as the rest of the country [during the recession], but that could be because energy is a big component of the economy there."
Energy analyst: $64,200 per year
Source: All salary data is provided by PayScale.com. Salaries listed are for full-time, private employees with 5 to 8 years experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.