May 28, 2024
Geographically speaking, look inland – away from major coastal employment hubs.

”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations while noting these grades are best seen as a mix of artful interpretation and data.

Buzz: California’s largest pay raises, geographically speaking, were concentrated away from major coastal employment hubs as 2023 started.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet reviewed the “Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages” report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study for the 12 months ended in March included 29 California counties. It’s based on unemployment insurance data filed by bosses vs. the more closely followed monthly job reports derived from employer surveys. These quarterly numbers give a different – some say better – snapshot of job market conditions.


Let’s look at the state’s largest job markets and the inland locations with the largest pay gains …

San Bernardino: 8.2% wage increase to $1,135 a week for 831,500 workers, down 0.3% over 12 months.

Riverside: 7.7% increase to $1,113 for 813,700 workers, down 0.6%.

Sacramento: 6.3% increase to $1,495 for 702,500 workers, up 2%.


Now compare the leading big-county pay hikes to employment hubs closer to the Pacific Ocean …

San Diego: 6.2% increase to $1,575 for 1.5 million workers, up 1.7%.

San Francisco: 5.9% increase to $3,613 for 729,900 workers, up 0.3%.

Los Angeles: 5.4% increase to $1,564 for 4.5 million workers, up 0.7%.

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Alameda: 4.6% increase to $1,917 for 789,600 workers, up 0.3%.

Orange: 4.3% increase to $1,562 for 1.6 million workers, up 1.1%.

Santa Clara: 0.7% decrease to $3,306 weekly for 1.1 million workers, up 1.8% over 12 months.


The biggest raises among all 29 counties tracked were found in some of the state’s smallest employment markets. Their shrinking job counts, at a time when payrolls overall are still growing, suggests bosses in these counties struggle to find workers and pay up to remain staffed.

Yolo: 12.6% wage increase to $1,461 a week for 106,100 workers, a loss of 1% of the county’s workforce.

Monterey: 10.4% increase to $1,164 for 173,600 workers, off 3.1%.

Merced: 9.7% increase to $1,009 for 80,700 workers, off 0.5%.

Bottom line

It’s no surprise that California business has fared far better away from the coast for much of the pandemic era. That’s where economic growth has been hottest.

Overall, wages statewide rose 5.5% to $1,735 in a year as bosses scrambled to fill their staffs amid a worker shortage. Jobs increased by 0.9% in a year to 17.8 million – a hiring pace on par with the past quarter century.

What might be surprising to some folks is that California’s job market is looking sluggish compared to the nation. Pay raises ranked fifth-lowest among the states and job growth was last.

Note that U.S. weekly wages were up 6.6% in this timeframe to $1,465. Jobs grew by 2.5% to 151 million workers.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]

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