Where you live can determine how much more you'll be making next year.

Although much still needs to be done to create good jobs for the many out of work or under-employed Americans, there is some cause to celebrate this Labor Day, as workers in some areas of the country took home substantial raises, according to the most recent data.

My Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) colleague Charlotta Mellander analyzed wage and salary data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the metros which saw the biggest increases in wages from 2010 to 2011 (the most recent period for which data are available). MPI’s Zara Matheson mapped the data.

Map courtesy of MPI's Zara Matheson, data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

As the map shows, the majority of U.S. metros saw wage and salary increases. Across the country, 94 percent (370 of 395) posted wage and salary gains over this period.

The table below shows the large metros — those with over one million people — with the top 10 biggest "raises."

Large Metros with the Biggest Average Annual Increases in Wages and Salaries

Rank Metro Total Raise 2010 Wages  2011 Wages 
1 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $2,030 $67,850 $69,880
2 Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA $1,680 $54,610 $56,290
3 Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA $1,540 $56,360 $57,900
4 San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA $1,530 $63,290 $64,820
5 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ $1,500 $43,450 $44,950
6 Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA $1,460 $50,090 $51,550
7 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV $1,420 $62,300 $63,720
7 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA $1,420 $50,240 $51,660
9 New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ $1,330 $57,170 $58,500
10 Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA $1,290 $44,970 $46,260

Data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Metros in the San Francisco Bay Area take three of the top five spots. San Jose tops the list, with workers taking home an average annual raise of $2,030. Seattle is second, with a $1,680 average raise, followed by Oakland, $1,540, and San Francisco, $1,530. Phoenix is fifth, $1,500. Rounding out the top 10 are: Sacramento ($1,460), Washington, D.C. ($1,420), Los Angeles ($1,420), New York ($1,330), and Providence ($1,290). The gains are largely bi-coastal, concentrated in the Bay Area and the Boston-New York-Washington corridor.

Most of these large metros had high salaries to begin with. In fact, three of the top 10 had average wages over $60,000 per year, and all had wages above $40,000, in each of the covered years. So it's important to note that these raises built upon already high wages.

Large metros, however, did not provide their workers with the biggest raises overall. The table below shows the top 10 metros overall with the biggest raises, and only one large metro, San Jose, makes this list.

Overall Metros with the Biggest Average Annual Increases in Wages and Salaries

Rank Metro Total Raise 2010 Wages  2011 Wages 
1 Fairbanks, AK $2,700 $50,350 $53,050
2 Bloomington, IN $2,460 $35,650 $38,110
3 Iowa City, IA $2,330 $41,840 $44,170
4 Dubuque, IA $2,300 $36,070 $38,370
5 Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH  $2,290 $44,880 $47,170
6 Williamsport, PA $2,120 $35,940 $38,060
7 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $2,030 $67,850 $69,880
7 Wenatchee, WA $2,030 $38,600 $40,630
9 Champaign-Urbana, IL $1,930 $45,010 $46,940
10 Valdosta, GA $1,860 $32,160 $34,020

Data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fairbanks, Alaska, takes the top spot overall with an average annual raise of $2,700. Bloomington, Indiana, is second, with a $2,460 increase. Iowa City, Iowa ($2,330) is third, Dubuque, Iowa ($2,300) fourth, and Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, Massachusetts-New Hampshire ($2,290) fifth. The remainder of the top 10 include: Williamsport, Pennsylvania ($2,120); San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California ($2,030); Wenatchee, Washington ($2,030); Champaign-Urbana, Illinois ($1,930), and Valdosta, Georgia ($1,860).

Many of the metros on this list saw bigger raises than those in large metros, but are building on smaller annual wages. Only one of the top ten smaller metros (with a population of less than one million people) — Fairbanks — had an average wage over $50,000 per year in 2011, whereas eight of the top 10 large metros had wages above that level.

While workers in most metros saw some wage and salary gains, these gains vary substantially my location. Workers in large metros tend to make more, but it generally costs more to live in those areas, too. Conversely, in many smaller metros, that wage increase will likely stretch a little bit further.

About the Author

Richard Florida
Richard Florida

Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at New York University.

Most Popular

  1. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.
    Equity

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.

  2. Homeless individuals inside a shelter in Vienna in 2010
    Equity

    How Vienna Solved Homelessness

    What lessons could Seattle draw from their success?

  3. Life

    Why a City Block Can Be One of the Loneliest Places on Earth

    Feelings of isolation are common in cities. Let’s take a look at how the built environment plays into that.

  4. Mack Donohue, who has been homeless since 2008, carries his belongings into a shelter in Boston, Massachusetts February 27, 2015.
    Equity

    Rethinking Homeless Shelters From the Ground Up

    One nonprofit wants to reward results, and change the funding model in the process.

  5. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.