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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

10 Great Cities for Salary Growth

We all want to know what's going to happen with the job market in 2009, especially where salaries are concerned. Is a raise in your future? It might just come down to where you live.

Yet the most recent and complete numbers for salary growth in metropolitan areas are from 2007, and with everything our economy has been through in recent months -- unstable markets, major businesses collapsing, and an official announcement of a U.S. recession -- those numbers seem all but obsolete.

So, how do you know which city might offer you a salary boost? According to Laurence Shatkin, author of the recently published "150 Recession-Proof Jobs," there is a pattern to discover in the places that do well in a recession. Industries such as basic health care, education, transportation services and government jobs stay strong in a recession because they cater to more basic societal needs. These industries will frequently concentrate in the same areas -- quite often state capitals -- maintaining job growth and wage increases, while other areas suffer more.

Below are some profiles of the top-performing large cities of 2008 and their 2007 statistics on personal income growth, according to the Bureau of Economic Research. Looking at these numbers and how "recession-proof" their main industries are will hopefully give an idea how well they'll continue to perform into 2009.

Austin-Round Rock, TX - pop. 840,066 - 7.7% avg. salary increase
Building off of an already robust government labor sector, the University of Texas at Austin is a huge source of innovation. The area has been using UT's excellent programs from bioengineering to pharmaceutical research programs to invigorate both the technology and burgeoning pharmaceutical industries.

Bakersfield, CA - pop. 315, 837 - 6.6% avg. salary increase
Oilfields and other natural resources created a lot of opportunity for growth around this city recently, and increased demand for services has spurred along the education and health-care sectors. Wages grew here much faster than the national average in recent years, and though that rate is expected to taper, nearby Edwards Air Base and Chevron should help to stabilize the economy and maintain a decent wage growth for transportation and logistics jobs.

Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC - pop. 245,472 - 8.1% avg. salary increase
The Medical University of South Carolina gives weight to this area's healthcare industry and is inspiring recent investment in the biosciences. This adds to Charleston's already strong transportation/logistics industry -- the Port of Charleston is among the most efficient ports in North America, and that should keep business rolling and wages rising.

Huntsville, AL - pop. 171, 327 - 6.4% avg. salary increase
Yet another city whose strong and growing economy is due to the technology industry, Huntsville's U.S. Army post is also expected to grow over the next few years. In addition, it has just opened the doors to HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology which should only encourage more growth in jobs and wages in 2009.

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX - pop. 197, 183 - 7.1% avg. salary increase
Call centers established by Convergys and T-Mobile in this area have created a healthy chunk of jobs recently. The area has also strengthened its home healthcare industry, which is now the second largest employment sector after state and local government. Drawing off these "recession-proof" industries gives hope that wages will continue to grow.

Orlando-Kissimmee, FL - pop. 289,684 - 5.2% avg. salary increase
The health-care industry has been the impetus behind this area's growth, so odds are that the downturn won't hit this area very hard. The Burnham Institute for Medical Research and a new medical school at the University of Central Florida are expected to attract other industries to the area, particularly high-tech firms, all of which point to good chances for wage growth.

Provo-Orem, UT - pop. 210,670 - 9.7% avg. salary increase
Benefiting from the innovative brain-power of Brigham-Young University, the information service industry in this city has been fueling rapid growth over the last five years. Business investment in the tech sector remains strong, which should help Provo-Orem ride out the ,slowdown in good form.

Raleigh-Cary, NC - pop. 375,806 - 8.7% avg. salary increase
State government employment gives this capital city a sturdy backbone for economic security. High quality educational centers (North Carolina State; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) inject creative brainpower into Raleigh's thriving tech companies and its growing biopharmaceutical sector -- all good signs for strength in the coming year.

Salt Lake City, UT - pop 180,651 - 9.2% avg. salary increase
Like Raleigh, Salt Lake City boasts great tech and government jobs. In addition, health care (Intermountain Health Care) and education (University of Utah) add extra spark to SLC's economic fire. Based on this, expectations are high that wage growth will remain comparatively strong.

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA - pop. 912,077 - 8.4% avg. salary increase
Microsoft and Boeing are the main jolts of force behind this area's continued growth. Looking into the future, with the heightened interest in green technology, Boeing's push for a more fuel-efficient commercial aircraft will likely reap great rewards. Strong health-care and research institutions also keep paychecks growing in slower economic times.

Sources: Best Performing Cities 2008 (Milken Institute and Greenstreet Partners, September 2008); Personal Income for Metropolitan Areas 2007 (Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce, August 2008); "150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs" (Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D.)