Hinesville is among 47 U.S. metropolitan areas that have maintained double-digit wage growth during the past 24 months, according to Tom Tveidt, research economist with Garner Economics.
In a report titled “U.S. Metros Wage Growth & Trends,” Tveidt said national trends are “aggregations of activities” that take place in what he called unique local economies.
“We wanted to show how unique every place is,” Tveidt said. “A lot of folks don’t even know how good or bad they’re doing. ... The nation’s 372 metropolitan areas represent the real economic dynamism underlying the headline trends, and rarely do they fall in lockstep ... (And) among metros, there’s a wide disparity in wage trends over the last two years.”
Tveidt said only 47 metros consistently maintained growth during the past two years. He noted that seven metros didn’t experience a single month of what he called “year-over-year wage growth” during the past two years.
While using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey and Current Employment Statistics Survey for hourly and salary wages, Tveidt said national wages during the past two years have increased only 4.7 percent. The wages have increased from an average $22.70 per hour in 2010 to $23.87. He said when that gain is adjusted with the average 4.8 percent inflation rate during the same two-year period, wage growth looks flat, if not somewhat negative.
He also noted in his report there is a wide disparity in wage trends across the 47 metros listed. For Hinesville-Fort Stewart, average hourly wages were $17.71, which represents a 21 percent wage growth. However, when adjusted for two-year inflation, the average wage growth is only 15.5 percent, he said.
While admitting he doesn’t know the particular dynamics of Hinesville-Fort Stewart’s wages, he supposed the higher military pay and industrial salaries, when averaged with the typical lower-wage service-job salaries, raise the overall average of wages in the community. He also suggested military bases buffer communities from some economic downturn.
Mayor Jim Thomas agreed. He said he is pleased but not really surprised by the report.
“We’ve had double-digit wage growth for the past four years,” Thomas said. “I think a lot of it is contributable to our military, military civilians and military contractors. I also think our industrial base has increased our average wages.”
He said that much of Hinesville’s economy is dependent upon Fort Stewart and said he does not believe the post is facing the drastic spending and manpower cuts other installations soon could face.
Thomas said if Congress does not come up with an agreement to prevent sequestration, there would be cutbacks at Fort Stewart. He emphasized, however, his belief that Congress will come up with another stop-gap measure to continue funding the federal government until a more permanent solution is worked out. Hinesville-Fort Stewart then will continue on a path of growth, he said.
“I think the fact that we’ve had that kind of growth for the last two years is indicative of the efforts to get industry to come here,” Thomas said. “It’s also indicative of the military pay, which is the just compensation they deserve for the service and sacrifice they make for this country.”