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Employment rose in 13 of the 15 largest counties in New Jersey from December 2018 to December 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. (Large counties are those with 2018 annual average employment levels of 75,000 or more.) Chief Regional Economist Martin Kohli noted that employment rose 2.1% over the year in Ocean County, 1.5% in Gloucester County, and 1.3% in Passaic County.

Nationally, employment increased 1.2% over the year with 285 of the 355 largest U.S. counties reporting increases. Cleveland, OK, had the largest percentage increase in the country, up 5.8% over the year. Ector, TX, had the largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment with a loss of 4.2%.

 Chart 1. Highest-ranked large counties in New Jersey by percent increase in employment, December 2018-19 and Chart2. Highest-ranked large counties in New Jersey ranked by percent increase in average weekly wages, fourth quarter 2018-19

Among the 15 largest counties in New Jersey, employment was highest in Bergen County (457,000) in December 2019. Middlesex had an employment level of 440,400, followed by Essex with 353,000. Altogether, New Jersey’s largest counties accounted for 91.1% of total employment within the state. Nationwide, the 355 largest counties made up 73.7% of total U.S. employment.

Wages increased in 14 of the 15 largest counties in New Jersey from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the fourth quarter of 2019, with the fastest rate of increase in Union County at 7.9%. Morris County had the highest average weekly wage among the state’s largest counties at $1,691, followed by Somerset at $1,628. Nationally, the average weekly wage increased 3.5% from a year ago to $1,185 in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Employment and wage levels (but not over-the-year changes) are also available for the six counties in New Jersey with employment below 75,000. Hunterdon ($1,294) was the only small county to report an average weekly wage above the U.S. average of $1,185. Cape May County reported the lowest average weekly wage, $840

Large County Wage Changes

Union County’s 7.9% annual wage increase came in at more than twice the national rate of 3.5%. Morris and Ocean Counties, at 4.3% and 3.7% respectively, were the only other large counties in the state with gains that exceeded the national average. Atlantic County’s 3.5-percent increase matched the national rate, followed by Camden County at 3.2%. Five counties—Bergen, Burlington, Essex, Gloucester, and Hudson—had over-the-year gains ranging from 2.7% to 2.0%. Wage gains ranged from 1.9% to 0.1% in four additional counties. Conversely, Mercer County (-0.8%) experienced an over-the-year loss and ranked 348th nationwide.

Nationally, 341 of the 355 largest counties had over-the-year wage increases. Santa Cruz, CA, had the largest percentage wage increase (20.7 percent). The remaining 14 large counties had wage declines during the period. Linn, IA, had the largest over-the-year percentage decrease (-7.1 percent).

Large County Average Weekly Wages

Eight of New Jersey’s large counties reported average weekly wages above the national average of $1,185 in the fourth quarter of 2019. The state’s five highest-paying counties—Morris, Somerset, Hudson, Union and Mercer—ranked among the nation’s top 30. Ocean County had an average weekly wage of $944, the lowest of New Jersey’s large counties, and ranked 286th nationwide.

Nationally, 93 large counties reported average weekly wages at or above the U.S. average in the fourth quarter of 2019. Santa Clara, CA, had the highest average weekly wage at $2,825. Average weekly wages were below the national average in 262 counties. At $701 a week, Cameron, TX, had the lowest average weekly wage.

Average Weekly Wages in New Jersey’s Smaller Counties

Of the six smaller counties in New Jersey—those with employment below 75,000—Hunterdon ($1,294) was the only small county to report an average weekly wage above the U.S. average of $1,185. The remaining five smaller counties had average weekly wages ranging from $1,150 in Salem to $840 in Cape May.

When all 21 counties in New Jersey were considered, 9 had an average weekly above $1,250. All of these counties were clustered in northern and central New Jersey. Eight counties had average weekly wages below $1,100, five of which were located in the southern half of the state.

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