State Capitol News
1:09 am
Fri December 28, 2007

Arizona wages slowly rising

Phoenix, AZ – Wages in the state are still below the national average. But as Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports, they're catching up.

New figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
put the average wage per job in the state for last year
at $39,686. That's about 5.5 percent below the national
average of nearly $42,000. But it's better than at the
beginning of the decade when jobs in Arizona were
paying close to 7.1 percent below the national average.
And a decade before that, Arizona wages were close to 9
percent below the average.

What's happening apparently
is due to two factors. First is the state's relatively
low unemployment rate. Fewer people from which to
choose means companies have to pay more. But the other
side of the equation is that the state's softening
economy means companies have to get what Don Wehbey of
the Department of Economic Security calls leaner and
meaner. He said they're finding themselves in the
position of hiring fewer people. But the ones they are
hiring are the most productive -- meaning the ones who
will command the higher salaries.

The new figures also
show that, in general, jobs in the state's two major
metropolitan areas pay more than in the rest of the
state. The one exception to that has been in tiny
Greenlee County where the average job pays more than
$44,700 a year, driven largely by mining operations
there.

For Arizona Public Radio, this is Howard Fischer.