Houston and Seattle top one list of actual wage growth from 2011 to 2012.

The December jobs report released Friday showed little improvement in the overall American economy since November. The unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent and just over 150,000 jobs were added, not a particularly thrilling start to the new year.

While U.S. employment may not be growing rapidly, an analysis released today by PayScale.com, a site that collects salary and career data, notes that wages and salaries in the 20 largest United States metros did see real increases over the last 12 months. This report follows a striking first quarter of last year, when the same company reported that national wages had increased the most in that quarter since 2008.

For their analysis, the company uses their "PayScale Index," a way of measuring quarter-to-quarter changes in actual wages, relying on the company's database of over 35 million employee profiles.

Katie Bardaro, PayScale's lead economist, writes in an email that the report's numbers indicate the economy is improving. "Many annual wage growth numbers are the highest they've been since 2006 and every metro experienced an annual growth in wages," she writes. "A year ago, we still had metros experiencing annual decreases in wages and the increases were more muted; all below 2 percent compared to this year where most were above 2 percent."

Nationally, the index increased by 3.5 percent over the 12-month period. Here are the rankings for the largest 20 metro areas, as determined by the Office of Management and Budget based on 2009 Census numbers.

PayScale Index by Metro
Rank Metropolitan Statistical Area 12-month Percentage Change
(Q4 2011 to Q4 2012)
1 Houston 4.8%
2 Seattle 4.8%
3 Boston 4.5%
4 Riverside 4.5%
5 Dallas 4.3%
6 San Francisco 3.9%
7 Chicago 3.8%
8 Minneapolis 3.7%
9 Los Angeles 3.3%
10 Philadelphia 3.2%
11 Phoenix 3.2%
12 Tampa 3.2%
13 New York 3.1%
14 Miami 3.0%
15 San Diego 2.7%
16 Baltimore 2.6%
17 Atlanta 2.4%
18 Detroit 1.9%
19 St. Louis 1.9%
20 Washington, D.C. 1.6%
 
"One of the most notable changes compared to last year was Riverside," Bardaro says. "This metro is dominated by housing construction and thus took a real hard hit in the Great Recession. A year ago (Q4 2011), annual wage trends fell 3 percent and this quarter, annual wages grew by 4.5 percent. This turnaround was largely driven by recovery in the construction industry."
 

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