Curry County’s Low- and High-Wage Industries Dominated Job Gains, 2014-2015

Curry County’s Low- and High-Wage Industries Dominated Job Gains, 2014-2015

by Annette Shelton-Tiderman

December 20, 2016

After reaching an employment low in 2011 and hovering around that low for several years, Curry County has recently added jobs across nearly all industry sectors. However, not all experienced the same rates of employment growth nor have these jobs paid equal wages. To gain a clearer picture of the county’s employment gains, it is helpful to look at the jobs added and associated wage levels.

Between 2014 and 2015, Curry County added just over 200 jobs, a 3.4 percent growth rate, bringing total nonfarm employment to 6,312. The overall average wage was $34,201. High-wage and low-wage industries accounted for almost 95 percent of the additional jobs, while medium-wage industries had the slowest growth.

Curry County’s low-wage jobs are considered to be those paying less than $27,000 per year. Medium-wage jobs pay between $27,000 and $41,000; and high-wage jobs pay more than $41,000 per year. Between 2014 and 2015, high-wage jobs accounted for almost 54 percent of the gains and low-wage jobs accounted for close to 41 percent. About 5 percent of the jobs added paid between $27,000 and $41,000.

High-Wage Industries Accounted for Nearly 54 Percent of Added Jobs

High-wage industries – those paying an average annual wage above $41,000 – include a wide range of business and government activities. Curry County’s government employment includes basic public administration as well as healthcare-related activities, many associated with its health districts. Overall, government added 87 jobs, a 7.4 percent growth rate. Government health care and social assistance accounted for 61 percent of all government jobs added and had a 14 percent growth rate. Wages vary within this arena. The average wage for federal health and social assistance was $82,418; for local government health and social assistance it was $63,080.

Other high-wage industries include manufacturing and professional and business services. Manufacturing paid an average wage of $47,557 and experienced a 2.4 percent employment growth rate. Professional and technical services (+23 jobs; $55,051) accounted for nearly all of the jobs added in the professional and business services sector.

Low-Wage Industries Provided 41 Percent of Added Jobs

Industries paying less than $27,000 per year included leisure and hospitality – a large industry with nearly 1,100 workers in 2015. This industry provides a wide range of job opportunities that are particularly important for those just entering the job market. Leisure and hospitality’s accommodation and food services component, paying $16,582 in 2015, accounted for all of the 63 jobs added, although there were some smaller gains and losses in other industries that canceled each other out. Also included in the low-wage industry group is an industry referred to as other services, which includes repair and maintenance services (automotive, precision equipment, etc.), personal care services, and business and professional organizations. Other services added jobs at a higher rate than any other industry (+10.4%) and the overall wage was $19,884.

Medium-Wage Industries Had the Slowest Rate of Growth

Curry County industries paying $27,000 to $41,000 accounted for 11 of the added jobs, 5 percent of the employment gains between 2014 and 2015. These industries covered a wide range of business activities and represented an equally broad range of occupations. The construction industry grew fastest. Construction was the hardest hit industry during the Great Recession with a 52 percent employment loss between 2006 and 2011. Curry County’s construction industry added 16 jobs during this one-year period – a strong 5 percent growth rate. Although the average construction wage was $32,948, within this broad industry are those engaged in the construction of buildings (+9%) and earning $26,696. Accounting for one-third of the construction industry’s job growth were those working in heavy and civil engineering construction (+5%; $44,496).

Curry County’s recent employment growth extends across its economy. Added jobs categorized by wage levels show a different pattern than those added across the state where medium-wage employment led job gains between 2014 and 2015, followed by high-wage jobs.