Recently released U.S. Department of Labor statistics show the average weekly pay in Davidson County rose 9 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period for 2011. The county's increase ranks above that of the U.S. average of 5.4 percent.
Nationally, Davidson County ranked 18th highest in average pay growth, placing in the top 6 percent of large counties in the U.S. Knox (Knoxville), Hamilton (Chattanooga) and Davidson counties placed in the highest 20 percent in pay growth, while Rutherford, Shelby (Memphis) and Williamson counties placed in the top 45 percent.
Tennessee average weekly pay rose 6.8 percent over the year, ranking the state eighth highest among the 50 states. By contrast, North Dakota rose 14.6 percent, the highest average pay growth, while New York experienced the lowest growth at negative 0.8 percent over the year.
For months, economists and others have bemoaned the tepid recovery in the labor market even as other economic indicators were picking up steam. December's job numbers, which pushed down the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent, should put to rest those grumblings — at least for a little while. Here are reports from the AP and the Times.
The December report painted a picture of a broadly improving job market. Average hourly pay rose, providing consumers with more income to spend. The average workweek lengthened, a sign that business is picking up and companies may soon need more workers. And hiring was strong across almost all major industries.
Jim Picerno says the job market — or more specifically, the Department of Labor researchers who track and then revise employment data — is signaling to us that the United States is not going back into recession anytime soon. Revisions to the private nonfarm payroll numbers have been positive each month since May, Picerno says.
U.S. employers pulled back on hiring big time last month, adding just 54,000 jobs. That has pushed the national unemployment rate back over 9 percent. And there's no blaming it on one-off events.
The Labor Department said severe weather last month, including tornadoes and flooding, in the Midwest and the South did not materially affect data collection. It also said that while some workers in those regions may have been temporarily displaced from their jobs, it found "no clear impact of the disasters on the national employment and unemployment data for May." The employment report provides one of the best early reads on the health of the U.S. economy and it regularly sets the tone for global financial markets.
SEE ALSO: A smorgasbord of economist reactions via the WSJ, with emotions ranging from "There is no way to put lipstick on that pig" to "This is an overreaction to gas prices."
Today’s figures follow a report last week showing the U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast in December, underscoring the concern of Federal Reserve policy makers about the labor market. Economic growth may need to accelerate further and encourage companies to ramp up the hiring necessary to reduce the unemployment rate. “Firms won’t go out and hire a lot of people until they’re confident that demand is increasing,” Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida, said before the report. “Demand is improving but it isn’t enough.”