Top wage gain mid-size cities
1 Winston-Salem, N.C., up 4.6 percent to $43,879
2 Boise City, Idaho, up 4.1 percent to $41,986
3 Chattanooga, up 3.9 percent to $43,318
4 Toledo, Ohio, up 3.5 percent to $43,418
5 Allentown, Pa., up 3.4 percent to $47,232.
Source: Headlight Data analysis of BLS data for wage growth from 2013 to 2014 among metro areas with populations between 500,000 to 1 million
Chattanooga wage rates grew 25 percent faster than the U.S. average last year, helping place the Scenic City among the top medium-sized metro areas for wage growth during 2014, according to a new assessment of government wage data.
Chattanooga wages grew an average 3.9 percent from 2013 to 2014, double the inflation rate for last year and well above the national average wage gain of 3.1 percent. Headlight Data, an economic research company that analyzed wage data for all U.S. metropolitan areas based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ranked Chattanooga third among America's 53 medium-size metro cities in the percentage growth in wages last year.
"As unemployment declines and employers hire more workers, we are seeing more upward wage pressure," said Chris Engle, Headlight's president and chief analyst. "For medium-size metro areas, Chattanooga's wage growth was quite impressive, which seems to reflect a combination of the growth in more higher-paying jobs, longer work weeks and higher hourly wages."
According to the BLS, employers in the 6-county metro Chattanooga area added 4,500 jobs last year, or 1.9 percent employment growth, to cut the local jobless rate to the lowest level in seven years.
In 2014, the average worker salary in metro Chattanooga grew by just over $2,500 last year to an average annual salary of $43,318, according to the Headlight analysis of the BLS data.
Headlight's data analysis of jobs showed some of the biggest average wage gains came for those employed by the federal governments, which boosted average pay 28 percent to a 2014 average of $105,864. Engle speculated that the gains may reflect higher-wage jobs added at TVA, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other technical federal facilities in East Tennessee. The average may also have been inflated by the loss of some lower paying federal jobs and longer work hours for some federal workers.
Computer programming jobs also showed big wage gains in metro Chattanooga, rising to an average $68,877.
"The economy of Chattanooga appears to be gaining steam and many of the jobs being added must be paying higher wages," Engle said.
Across mid-sized metros in the United States, wage growth varied from a high of 4.6 percent in Winston-Salem, N.C., to a low of 0.3 percent in Palm Bay, Fla.
Knoxville is another medium-size metro area, which had a higher average annual pay than Chattanooga in 2014 at $44,718, but an annual gain of only 2.8 percent.
Nationwide, average wages rose the most of any year since before the Great Recession hit the U.S. economy in 2007 when wage gains nationwide averaged 4.5 percent. Engle said metro areas with more technology, transportation and energy jobs generally boosted wages more than the U.S. average last year.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or 423-757-6340