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Maps

America's Best Places for a Raise

Although much still needs to be done to create good jobs for the many out of work or under-employed Americans, there is some cause to celebrate this Labor Day, as workers in some areas of the country took home substantial raises, according to the most recent data.

My Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) colleague Charlotta Mellander analyzed wage and salary data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the metros which saw the biggest increases in wages from 2010 to 2011 (the most recent period for which data are available). MPI’s Zara Matheson mapped the data.

Map courtesy of MPI's Zara Matheson, data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

As the map shows, the majority of U.S. metros saw wage and salary increases. Across the country, 94 percent (370 of 395) posted wage and salary gains over this period.

The table below shows the large metros — those with over one million people — with the top 10 biggest "raises."

Large Metros with the Biggest Average Annual Increases in Wages and Salaries

Rank Metro Total Raise 2010 Wages  2011 Wages 
1 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $2,030 $67,850 $69,880
2 Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA $1,680 $54,610 $56,290
3 Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA $1,540 $56,360 $57,900
4 San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA $1,530 $63,290 $64,820
5 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ $1,500 $43,450 $44,950
6 Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA $1,460 $50,090 $51,550
7 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV $1,420 $62,300 $63,720
7 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA $1,420 $50,240 $51,660
9 New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ $1,330 $57,170 $58,500
10 Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA $1,290 $44,970 $46,260

Data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Metros in the San Francisco Bay Area take three of the top five spots. San Jose tops the list, with workers taking home an average annual raise of $2,030. Seattle is second, with a $1,680 average raise, followed by Oakland, $1,540, and San Francisco, $1,530. Phoenix is fifth, $1,500. Rounding out the top 10 are: Sacramento ($1,460), Washington, D.C. ($1,420), Los Angeles ($1,420), New York ($1,330), and Providence ($1,290). The gains are largely bi-coastal, concentrated in the Bay Area and the Boston-New York-Washington corridor.

Most of these large metros had high salaries to begin with. In fact, three of the top 10 had average wages over $60,000 per year, and all had wages above $40,000, in each of the covered years. So it's important to note that these raises built upon already high wages.

Large metros, however, did not provide their workers with the biggest raises overall. The table below shows the top 10 metros overall with the biggest raises, and only one large metro, San Jose, makes this list.

Overall Metros with the Biggest Average Annual Increases in Wages and Salaries

Rank Metro Total Raise 2010 Wages  2011 Wages 
1 Fairbanks, AK $2,700 $50,350 $53,050
2 Bloomington, IN $2,460 $35,650 $38,110
3 Iowa City, IA $2,330 $41,840 $44,170
4 Dubuque, IA $2,300 $36,070 $38,370
5 Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH  $2,290 $44,880 $47,170
6 Williamsport, PA $2,120 $35,940 $38,060
7 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $2,030 $67,850 $69,880
7 Wenatchee, WA $2,030 $38,600 $40,630
9 Champaign-Urbana, IL $1,930 $45,010 $46,940
10 Valdosta, GA $1,860 $32,160 $34,020

Data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fairbanks, Alaska, takes the top spot overall with an average annual raise of $2,700. Bloomington, Indiana, is second, with a $2,460 increase. Iowa City, Iowa ($2,330) is third, Dubuque, Iowa ($2,300) fourth, and Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, Massachusetts-New Hampshire ($2,290) fifth. The remainder of the top 10 include: Williamsport, Pennsylvania ($2,120); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California ($2,030); Wenatchee, Washington ($2,030); Champaign-Urbana, Illinois ($1,930), and Valdosta, Georgia ($1,860).

Many of the metros on this list saw bigger raises than those in large metros, but are building on smaller annual wages. Only one of the top ten smaller metros (with a population of less than one million people) — Fairbanks — had an average wage over $50,000 per year in 2011, whereas eight of the top 10 large metros had wages above that level.

While workers in most metros saw some wage and salary gains, these gains vary substantially my location. Workers in large metros tend to make more, but it generally costs more to live in those areas, too. Conversely, in many smaller metros, that wage increase will likely stretch a little bit further.

Richard Florida is Co-Founder and Editor at Large at The Atlantic Cities. He's also a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, and Global Research Professor at New York University. He is a frequent speaker to communities, business and professional organizations, and founder of the Creative Class Group, whose current client list can be found here. All posts »

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