Although still trailing many other large Washington counties, Whatcom County posted a significant jump in wages in the first part of 2012.
The average weekly wage in Whatcom County was $796, a 6.6 percent increase compared to a year ago, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It's a significant jump, but Whatcom's average wage remains ninth highest out of the 10 largest Washington counties.
With an average weekly wage of $1,265, King County tops the list in Washington, followed by Snohomish ($1,061 average weekly wage), Benton ($959), Kitsap ($868) and Clark ($848).
Pierce County ($840) ranked sixth, followed by Thurston ($829), Spokane ($806), Whatcom ($796) and Yakima ($632).
Several factors could be behind Whatcom's jump, which was higher than the U.S. average of 5.4 percent and ranked 84th highest out of 329 counties.
Hart Hodges, director at Western Washington University's Center for Economic and Business Research, said one factor is the significant growth locally in high-paying industries, including manufacturing. Hodges also noted job losses in lower-paying industries, resulting in people choosing to leave the area, and thus impacting the overall average.
A third factor could be an influx of new wages during the period, as hundreds of people started work repairing BP Cherry Point refinery following a February fire there.
Hodges also noted another trend taking place - areas outside of Seattle are starting to catch up to the King County core.
The U.S. average weekly wage in the first quarter was $984, according to the federal bureau's data. Williamson, Texas, had the largest year-over-year increase, with a 27.4 percent jump.
New York City experienced the largest decrease, dropping 6.3 percent between the first quarter of 2011 and 2012.
Whatcom County also posted a 3.5 percent year-over-year increase in employment in the first quarter, putting it 28th highest among the 329 counties. The U.S. increase was 1.8 percent.
WASHINGTON IN MIDDLE OF PACK FOR PERSONAL INCOME GROWTH
When it comes to personal income growth, Washington was in the middle of the pack last quarter.
Personal income in the state rose 1 percent the second quarter of 2012, compared to the previous quarter, the same as the U.S. average, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Washington's personal income growth was slower than the first quarter, when it rose 1.6 percent compared to the previous quarter.
Personal income, as defined by the bureau, is income received by all persons from all sources. Much of Washington's income growth came from net earnings, according to the report, followed by dividend-type earnings, which include interest and rental income.
Professional services, health care and administrative services posted the most significant wage increases in Washington compared to the first quarter, while durable goods and federal government jobs posted declines.
North Dakota (up 2.1 percent) had the highest personal income growth, while New Mexico (up 0.4 percent) had the slowest growth. Washington ranked 21st.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.