San Mateo County workers earned the top weekly wage among large size counties in the entire nation last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which released the employment data Wednesday.
Workers in the county earned an average of $2,724 per week between December 2012 and December 2013. Based on four weeks in a month, that pencils out to about $130,000 a year. New York came in second at $2,041 followed by Santa Clara County.
Large counties are defined as those with 2012 annual average employment levels of 75,000.
But the glowing numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt and not just appraised in a bubble, said Rosanne Foust, president and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association.
Foust points out that the cost of business here is higher than elsewhere as is the cost of living for workers. For example, she said, an employee might earn a $100,000 annual salary but rent is $4,000 per month — $48,000 yearly — wipes away half the paycheck.
“I think there’s more than meets the eye,” she said.
Nationally, the average weekly wage was $1,000 and 98 counties including San Mateo County registered higher.
“What you have is companies willing to pay a premium for the type of worker they need,” Foust said, noting that a hypothetical 20 percent to 30 percent higher wage is to make up the difference in living expenses and because of the close proximity to key ingredients like educational hubs, talent and angel investors.
In contrast, 70 percent of the largest U.S. counties reported weekly wages below the national average and wages in the lowest ranged counties of Horry, South Carolina, and Cameron and Hidaldgo in Texas were less than a quarter of the average weekly wage in San Mateo County.
In California, the six highest paying counties were located in the Bay Area and 12 of the 58 surpassed the national average.
But while the county surpassed wages among the 334 largest jurisdictions, it also showed the second-largest decline nationwide. San Mateo County’s 15.8 percent wage drop was second only to Douglas County in Colorado which had a 29.7 decrease.
Foust said in her opinion those numbers also have to be evaluated more closely because an across-the-board figure is different than drops in specific industries.
“Some people love data,” she said. “But you can’t take it in isolation.”
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