UTICA — Average wages in Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties have increased since 2017, though the counties remain well behind the average of counties elsewhere in the state.
The data, provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that weekly income for workers in Oneida County rose 2.5 percent, or $20, to a total of $833 between April, May and June of 2017 and the same period in 2018. That's compared to an average across all counties statewide of $915.
In Herkimer County, that amount rose 3.1 percent, or $23, to a $777 total, and in Madison County that rose 3.2 percent, or $25, to a total of $805 across that same time.
That amount includes bonus payouts for employees.
The numbers, unadjusted for noneconomic changes that could impact them, point to growth that is showing signs of slowing, said bureau economist Bruce Bergman.
“Overall, the unadjusted data indicate that there was wage growth of about 2 to 3 percent in all three counties,” he said. “Those numbers are below the statewide growth rate of 4.4 percent, but in line with the change in consumer prices region-wide over the same time period, which was 2.6 percent.”
Looking at just one statistic is not entirely indicative of the status of the area workforce, Bergman said. He did, however, suggest there might be some appearance of weakness to the economy in the three counties.
“This goes back to what we saw with the (unemployment rates),” said Brion Acton, labor market analyst for the Department of Labor’s Mohawk Valley Region. “Employers are getting pressed looking for employees because there are less of them unemployed. That causes that wage increase.”
The report he was refering to from the New York State Department of Labor found that the Utica-Rome unemployment rate decreased 1.5 percentage points to 3.7 percent. Acton had said that was partially due to a reduced pool of potential workers.
As Acton put it, with fewer employees available to hire, potential skilled employees can ask for higher wages, which is pushing up the average wage numbers.
“When the labor cycle comes to this point where all the churn is out of the labor force now, you’re down to employed people, and people that are employable that have skills, and people that are employable that don’t have skills,” he added.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also found that employment changed little over the year in Oneida and Herkimer, suggesting that the latest year’s growth is down from 2016, Bergman said in an email.
Employment did, however, grow 1.1 percent in Madison County.
Across the state, the greatest changes in average weekly wage over that time were Queens, Richmond and Bronx counties, which rose 9.7 percent, 9.4 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.
With the local increases, Acton says the region’s economy still is on an upward trajectory.
“Is it steep? No,” he added. “I think there’s a sense of impending improvement, as seen by companies spending their money to be in this region. But we just haven’t seen the robust gains yet.”
Contact reporter Joseph Labernik at 315-792-4995 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Labernik).