Recently released data on employment and wage growth by county indicates that several Texas counties fall near the top of the list.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiled statistics for the 355 largest counties across the United States with annual average (2018) employment of 75,000 or more for the March 2018 to March 2019 time period. Four of the fastest growing ten counties in the country in terms of employment were in Texas.
In March 2019, national employment increased to 146.5 million, which was a 1.4 percent gain over a year prior. Employment was up in 298 of the 355 counties from March 2018 to March 2019. Midland County had the largest over-the-year increase in the U.S., with a gain of 5.8 percent for the year. Ector County (Odessa) ranked fourth, Williamson (northern part of greater Austin including Round Rock, Georgetown, and Cedar Park) was fifth, and Montgomery County (north of Houston and including The Woodlands and Conroe) was eighth. Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Travis counties were also in the top 15.
Turning to wages, the average weekly wage across the nation increased to $1,184 in March 2019, a 2.8 percent increase over the year. Of the 355 largest counties, 325 had increases in average weekly wages between March 2018 and March 2019. Only Williamson County ranked in the top 15 for wage increases, coming in sixth with a 6.9 percent gain. Ector County was the next highest, ranking 18th.
Looking at the pattern across Texas, areas near major oil production continue to grow faster than almost anywhere in the nation. Proximity to a large metropolitan center is also a contributing factor, and in the case of Williamson County, strong growth in technology is enhancing the growth pattern. Several counties north of Dallas are outpacing the national rate of increase in employment by a notable margin. Some counties with smaller population centers are also experiencing notable growth exceeding the national average (such as Brazos, McLennan, and Webb). At the same time, there are counties across Texas which are seeing little job growth.
For wages, larger counties in Texas with growth rates exceeding the national rate include Williamson (up 6.9 percent between March 2018 and March 2019), Ector (5.4 percent), Montgomery (5.2 percent), Bell (4.9 percent), Midland (4.8 percent), Harris (3.9 percent), Travis (3.6 percent), Cameron (3.2 percent), Tarrant (3.2 percent), and Dallas (2.9 percent). However, several others have experienced very modest average wage increases or even declines. Averages vary widely among Texas counties, from less than $650 per week (Cameron) to nearly $1,600 per week (Midland).
Any county with a rapid growth rate in employment is in the enviable position of having job opportunities for residents, although keeping pace with the demands of rapid expansion can be challenging.