Pine Bluff’s average hourly wage ranks in top half of state

Pine Bluff’s average hourly wage in May 2013 ranked among the top half of the eight metropolitan statistical areas measured within Arkansas by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Pine Bluff MSA’s average hourly wage of $17.50 places it No. 4, behind the Fayetteville, Little Rock and Memphis MSA’s, according to the most recent information available on the bureau’s website. Trailing Pine Bluff are the Texarkana, Fort Smith, Jonesboro and Hot Springs MSA’s.

Kathy Deck is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

“Pine Bluff’s higher average wages are because of the industrial mix of jobs in the area,” she said. “Industries there have to pay higher rates to be able to afford the specific workers they need.”

The city’s average hourly income is a good thing for the present, but Deck said it could be an issue for future growth. When an industry considers moving to a town, she said, it will search for a location with a deep labor pool and cost competitiveness. Future industries may not want to pay higher wages.

The Pine Bluff MSA had 33,170 people in its workforce in May 2013, less than the other Arkansas MSA’s included in the bureau’s statistics.

Deck cited not only Pine Bluff’s low population, but also the characteristics of the city’s population as influences on Pine Bluff’s average hourly wages.

“The population in Pine Bluff is older than the other metropolitan areas,” she said. “Older workers usually receive higher wages than younger workers who’re just starting out their careers.”

According to the bureau’s statistics for May 2013, Pine Bluff’s average hourly wage was lower than the $17.95 state average hourly wage, which was nearly 20 percent below the then-national average of $22.33 an hour.

Elsewhere in the state:

- The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA had an $19.98 average hourly wage and a 208,010-person workforce;

- The Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway MSA — $19.83 average hourly wage — 334,770 workers;

- The Memphis MSA — $19.82 average hourly wage — 590,140 workers;

- Texarkana MSA — $17.43 average hourly wage — 52,980 workers;

- The Fort Smith MSA — $16.81 average hourly wage — 112,020 workers;

- The Jonesboro MSA — $16.44 average hourly wage — 50,350 workers;

- The Hot Springs MSA — $16.15 average hourly wage — 34,530 workers.

With Arkansas trailing the national average for hourly wages, Deck said it’s encouraging that the state has a low cost of living.

“We can have lower wages because it costs less to live here, but we still have a good standard of living” she said. “That’s the goal of economic development within cities: to raise the standard of living.”