The data, pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, gives a forensic view of average weekly and annual wages, the number of employees and number of businesses in each county in the United States. The data is released approximately six months after each measured quarter, according to the BLS’ website, and comes from information reported as part of the U.S. Unemployment Insurance programs. According to the website, employment covered by the Unemployment Insurance programs represents approximately 97 percent of all wages and salary civilian employment in the country.
Tracking the numbers through 2013, Bartow’s average weekly wage for the first quarter was $741. That number rose going into the second quarter, reaching $747. In the third quarter it fell to $728 before rebounding to a new high for the year: $798 for the fourth quarter.
That last amount, $798, allowed Bartow to have the highest average weekly wages in northwest Georgia for the fourth quarter. Though Whitfield County matched Bartow for the average wage during 2013, its wages did not see the steady increase Bartow saw throughout the year.
For the first quarter, Whitfield County’s average wage was $767, which dropped down to $724 in the second quarter. The average wage rose slightly in the third quarter to $738 before rising again in the fourth quarter to $782.
In the rest of northwest Georgia, Floyd, Gordon and Haralson counties were the only others to crack the $700 average weekly wage for 2013. Floyd’s average came to $741, while Gordon and Haralson both came to $701.
The other 10 northwest Georgia counties stayed in the $500 to $600 range. Pickens saw an average of $676, Murray an average of $636, Polk an average of $634, Catoosa an average of $621, Paulding an average of $603, Walker an average of $600, Dade an average of $599, Chattooga an average of $567, Fannin an average of $551 and Gilmer an average of $540.
According to the BLS’ website, total wages take into account bonuses, stock options, severance pay, profit distributions, cash value of meals and lodging, tips and other gratuities and, in some states, employer contributions to certain deferred compensation plans, such as 401(k)s.
Two of Bartow’s neighbors not in the northwest Georgia region, Cherokee and Cobb counties, split on how they compare to Bartow itself. Cherokee County had an average weekly wage of $697, while Cobb had an average weekly wage of $1,021.
On a statewide comparison, Bartow County is below average, as the Georgia average weekly wage for all industries is $899. Georgia, as well as Bartow County, falls short of the U.S. average weekly wage of $958.
The BLS also records each county’s total annual wages, or all wages paid within the area for all of 2013. In the eight county area that includes Bartow County and its neighbors, Bartow was one of four that cracked the billion dollar level of all total annual wages paid by all employers.
Cobb County leads the area, with $16,581,871,816 annual total wages paid in 2013. Cherokee is second, with $1,728,706,652 annual wages paid. Floyd County is third, with $1,419,213,338 annual wages paid. Bartow is fourth, with $1,228,625,746 annual wages paid. Gordon County is fifth, at $736,688,278. Paulding County is sixth at $625,225,381. Polk County is seventh with $364,299,180 annual wages paid, and Pickens County is eighth, with $245,892,040 in annual wages.
While pulling average weekly wages and annual wages from the BLS is a matter of using a search box or Excel spreadsheet, putting the average weekly wage into a usable context — such as how it affects a county’s prosperity, unemployment or quality of life — is more difficult. No single government or state agency has ownership of the QCEW data. Steve Rondone, who works in the BLS’s Atlanta office, said the bureau takes in the data and crunches the numbers before posting everything to its website or sending it on to other government agencies. He said the BLS does not interpret data, but provides it as the basis of reports released by other agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Labor.
Multiple attempts to contact Lisa Adkisson, regional coordinator with the Georgia Department of Labor, and Gwen Dellinger, director of workforce development with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, for comment on the BLS data were unsuccessful.
However, the BLS data paints a detailed cross section of Bartow County’s business community by breaking down the annual average pay for each BLS identified business category.
The annual average pay for Bartow County for 2013 was $39,177 for all businesses.
For the federal government sector, the annual average pay was $56,070. State government was $39,199. Local government annual average pay was $38,842.
Goods producing paid $49,322 in annual average pay; natural resources and mining $45,213; construction $39,839; manufacturing $50,811; service providing $33,439; trade, transportation and utilities $36,677; information $39,434; financial activities $41,193; professional and business services $37,126; education and health services $45,328; other services $29,549; and unclassified business $39,370.
The lowest annual average pay in all of Bartow County was in leisure and hospitality, which came to $15,208 for 2013.
Annual average employment for Bartow County during 2013 was 31,361. The BLS data also breaks down each sector by the number of people employed.
The federal government employed 185 people, the state employed 775 people and local governments employed 3,806 people on an average basis during the year.
Private industries employed a total of 26,595 people on an average basis during the same time. Good producing employed 9,491; natural resources and mining 169; construction 1,201; manufacturing 8,120; service providing 17,104; trade transportation and utilities 6,721; information 313; financial activities 933; professional and business services 2,478; education and health services 2,390; leisure and hospitality 3,671; other services 513; and unclassified business 86 employees.
All Bartow County businesses paid out the $1,228,625,746 in annual wages. BLS reports the individual business categories paid out the following amounts for 2013: federal government, $10,344,843; state government $30,376,121; local government $147,847,065; goods producing $468,105,735; natural resources and mining $7,656,018; construction $47,846,546; manufacturing $412,603,171; service providing $571,951,982; trade, transportation and utilities $246,495,069; information $12,323,095; financial activities $38,429,623; professional and business services $91,986,025; education and health services $108,333,427; leisure and hospitality $55,832,160; other services $15,153,659; and unclassified paid $3,398,924 in annual wages.
Due to the six-month lag between the end of a quarter and the release of a BLS report, wage data for 2014 is not yet available. The data will be released, according to the BLS’ website, on Sept. 18.