Economic Development and Human Resources

Grand Rapids salary rates are rising

April 6, 2016
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A new study shows significant increases in private sector average salary and employment in the Grand Rapids metro area over the last year.

Highlight Data, an online data aggregator serving the economic and workforce development sectors, released a new report today ranking Grand Rapids seventh among the top 10 large metropolitan areas with the fastest growing private sector salaries based on new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The ranking

Highlight Data evaluated the growth in salary for 53 U.S. metropolitan areas with a population of at least 1 million people on recent statistics released from the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

The Grand Rapids metropolitan area was ranked seventh based on its 5.4 percent growth in private sector average salaries between December 2014 and December 2015. Comparable cities included Columbus, Ohio, with 8.9 percent; Virginia Beach, Virginia, with 7.7 percent; Portland, Oregon, with 6.5 percent; and Raleigh, North Carolina, with 5.7 percent.

The growth

Chris Engle, president and chief analyst at Highlight Data, said the U.S. economy is growing faster than it ever has since the recession and the growth is now starting to affect salaries.

“Grand Rapids’ economy performed well last year, which resulted in a sizeable boost to local wage levels,” said Engle.

Highlight Data’s report also indicated Grand Rapids was ranked third for overall employment growth in 2015. Employment in the private sector grew 4.1 percent, while the workforce grew by 3.8 percent across all industries in 2015. The one-year growth in both employment and salary placed Grand Rapids among the highest 20 percent of metros with fast-growing economies, according to the report.

Although Grand Rapids’ annual salary rate grew last year, it was ranked 32nd in terms of the average pay in 2015. With an average pay of $50,627, Grand Rapids was considered among the second lowest 20 percent of metros for annual salary.

Other results

Highlight Data also found while overall private sector salaries across the country grew 2.6 percent in 2015, seven cities saw a decline in average pay. Among the bottom 10 were Louisville, Kentucky, with a 2 percent decline; St. Louis, Missouri, with a 1.8 percent decline; Washington, D.C., with a 1.6 percent drop; and Dallas, Texas, with a 1.1 percent decline.

In terms of the highest salaries in large metropolitans, San Jose, California, topped the list with an average annual pay rate of more than $85,000. Other top salary-paying cities include: San Francisco, $72,800; Seattle, $71,900; Boston, $69,800; and Washington, D.C., $67,500.

The bottom five metros with the lowest private sector salaries in 2015 were Riverside, California; Memphis, Tennessee; San Antonio, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Las Vegas, Nevada.

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