A northwest Arkansas county topped all other counties in the nation in average wage growth over a one year period ending in the fourth quarter of 2014. Benton County’s 9.9 percent increase bested the country’s 339 largest counties in a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Wednesday. The national average was 3.5 percent average wage growth.
The director of the University of Arkansas’s Center for Business and Economic Research Katherine Deck says higher wages in northwest Arkansas are a “not surprising” result of continued economic development and “what happens as your labor market gets tighter.”
However, Deck notes the numbers for the fourth quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2014 are particularly high.
“Wage growth is not always this high in Benton County so I think it is notable and worth taking a closer look to see how was last year a little bit different, “said Deck. “Are we seeing the tightness mean that employers need to pay a little bit more to keep the best people?”
Deck said the growth in professional and business services is likely the biggest contributor to the rise in average wages.
“We’ve known for a long time that employment growth was really spectacular in 2014 in northwest Arkansas. In particular, one of the key industries in northwest Arkansas is professional and business services. It’s broadly lawyers, accountants, and architects; people that have to have education to do what they do. We really saw the biggest average wage gains in those professional and business services,” said Deck.
Another factor is that Benton County wages have historically been lower than the national average, said Deck.
At 3.7 percent the state’s most populous county, Pulaski, came in just above the national average. Washington County was also measured, with wages growing 4.2 percent for Benton County’s southern neighbor.