Many larger U.S. counties see wages rise despite spike in unemployment

  • Source: U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

LAWTON – Last week the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics released the updated county employment and wages report for the second quarter.

Between June 2019 and June 2020, employment decreased by 9.4% in the 357 largest U.S. counties. Employment nationwide was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts to contain the virus during the second quarter.

Many of the most affected counties, like Atlantic County, New Jersey; Orange County, Florida; Clark County, Nevada; Maui and Kalawao counties in Hawaii; Orleans Parish, Louisiana, where employment dropped by over 19% and as much as 34%, are tied directly to the leisure and hospitality industries.

In Atlantic County, the leisure and hospitality industries shed over 33,000 jobs for a reduction of 75.2%. Nationwide, these industries suffered the most of any other during the second quarter.

Texas’ Midland and Ector counties saw large declines in employment as well due to falling oil prices on the global market causing large declines in demand.

Three Oklahoma counties on the list — Cleveland, Oklahoma and Tulsa — ranked first, 64th and 95th for percent change in employment, respectfully. Cleveland County had the smallest decrease in employment, at just -0.2%. Oklahoma and Tulsa counties saw declines of 6% and 6.9% employment, relatively close to the overall change in employment for the state as a whole.

In all but five of the 357 counties, wages increased year over year. In contrast, despite the loss in employment, New Jersey’s Atlantic County experienced the highest wage increase compared to the other counties. Weekly wages gained 22.5%, with gains of 24.2% or $143 in the leisure and hospitality industries in Atlantic County. The national average wage increased 8.6% to $1188 per week. Just five counties saw wages fall over the period, including Midland and Ector counties in Texas.

In Oklahoma, wages increased statewide by just 4.4%, around half of the national average. Cleveland County experienced gains of 7.5%, Oklahoma County 6.1%, and Tulsa County 5.5%. All three counties ranked in the bottom third of the 357 largest counties in the country for wage increases.

Data for the third quarter 2020 will be released in February.