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Fairfield County Had Biggest Wage Gains, Fastest Job Growth In State In 2010

By MARA LEE

July 26, 2011

Although the state's economy is sputtering this year, Fairfield County outpaced the state and the nation last year in adding jobs and raising wages, a new report shows.

Fairfield County employers added jobs faster than in any other part of the state, and employees who work there had a bigger jump in wages than anywhere else in the state from the end of 2009 to the end of 2010. And the Gold Coast improved faster than the nation in both measures, according to the report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which examined the four largest counties in the state.

The average weekly wage paid in Fairfield County at the end of 2010 translates to a $77,740 annual salary, 3.9 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier. That's fourth-highest in the nation, behind Washington, D.C., New York City and the Silicon Valley in Santa Clara, Calif. where workers had a whopping 14.4 increase in wages, the second-fastest growth in the country.

The last time that Fairfield County grew that fast was the late 1990s, said McGee, who was state economic development commissioner in the early '90s.

In Hartford County, by contrast, the average weekly wage at the end of 2010 translates into a $61,204 annual salary, a 1.7 percent increase from the year before far below the 3 percent national increase. Still, the average wage in Hartford and its suburbs is higher than the average wage in 88 percent of the urban counties throughout the country.

Job growth among Hartford County employers was anemic in 2010, with 0.9 percent more jobs the same growth rate as the nation as a whole. It was better, but still sluggish, in Fairfield County, where employment increased by 1.3 percent.

"It's a positive trend but we have to be realistic, this is still very slow growth. We'd like to see 3 [percent] to 5 percent in jobs growth," said Joe McGee, vice president for public policy at the Business Council of Fairfield County.

Fairfield County, notably Greenwich, accounts for a high percentage of the state's income tax collection. But the county-by-county report captures only a part of that wealth because it shows jobs and income at employers within the county, not in New York, and it shows pay, not total income including capital gains and dividends.

McGee said he thinks that Fairfield's economy has continued to improve this year. "We're seeing interns being hired, firms are expanding," he said. "We hear from companies needing engineers. In the financial services sector, we're still seeing people hired. In the consulting business, our members tell us they are hiring. Apartment buildings are being built down here; they're being leased. But it's mixed. It's not a clear picture of all boats are rising."

He said he didn't know why Fairfield's economy was improving faster than Hartford County's, except that investment banking traditionally has had faster growth than insurance, and its proximity to New York. He suggested that boutique firms that serve the county's upper classes could also be a contributor, such as a Manhattan firm that creates investment-tracking software that opened a branch office in Stamford.

"On the other hand, I don't want to be pollyannaish about this," McGee said. "There's still a large [office] vacancy rate about 25 percent; it's going to take a number of years to work through it."

New Haven and New London County employers actually had fewer jobs at the end of 2010 than they had a year earlier. For those who kept their jobs, wage growth in New London was just 1.5 percent, bringing the average to $49,712, and in New Haven, wages grew by 2.8 percent, with an average of $54,028.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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