WASHINGTON – Maricopa County had the fourth-biggest jobs increase among large U.S. counties last year and its average weekly wages also grew faster than the national average, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Maricopa’s gain of 41,400 jobs from March 2011 to 2012 led a general improvement in the state, where 11 of 15 counties added jobs during the period, according to the bureau. Maricopa’s increase accounted for more than 80 percent of the state’s growth in employment.
The county is still below where it was before the recession, when the state as a whole lost more than 300,000 jobs, said Don Stapley of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. But he said the recent addition of jobs is becoming a trend, as the state heads back toward pre-recession employment levels.
“We have worked very hard as a county to make Maricopa a business-friendly place,” Stapley said. “This is the fruit of those efforts. The efforts precede the recession.”
Only Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, and New York and Los Angeles counties had larger increases than Maricopa from March to March, according to the bureau.
It said the top five counties – No. 5 is Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago – were responsible for almost 11 percent of the nation’s employment increase during the period.
As a state, Arizona employment grew by 2.1 percent, the 10th-highest rate in the nation. The average weekly wage across the state also went up, with pay in Mohave and Greenlee jumping almost 8 percent, the largest increases in Arizona.
Income grew even in the four counties that lost jobs over the year – Apache, Cochise, Mohave and Santa Cruz counties.
But while five counties in the state saw wages grow faster than the national average, Arizonans as a whole continued to make less than the national average during the period, the report said.
Stapley said Maricopa County officials have worked hard to attract not just jobs, but higher-paying jobs. He pointed to the county’s ability to attract Intel to build a $5 billion facility in Maricopa, county efforts to increase the biomedical sector and its focus on improving its research universities.
“We aren’t attracting call-center jobs,” Stapley said. “We are going after better-paying jobs. That has been our focus and our goal.”
As of March 2012, the average weekly wage in Maricopa County was $945, or $39 less per week than the national average, according to the bureau report. The state average was $887 a week, $97 less than the national mark.
Greenlee was the only county to pay more than the U.S. average in March of this year, with individuals there making an average of $1,477 a week, according to the report.