Wages are on the rise in St. Joseph. Buchanan County in northwest Missouri now ranks 9th among Missouri’s 114 counties plus the city of St. Louis in wages, rising 30% over the past 10 years.
St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce President Patt Lilly says the wage growth is undermining the reputation of St. Joseph as a cheap labor town.
“Certainly, in the last five years that has just simply not been the case, what we find is that many of our companies are paying at or more even in some cases than Kansas City,” Lilly tells St. Joseph affiliate KFEQ. “So, we’re no longer known as a cheap labor town.”
Lilly credits a recent influx of high-skill labor jobs as well as positions requiring college degrees for the increase in wages. Manufacturing and production jobs make up more than 20% of the greater St. Joseph area workforce.
The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center reports Buchanan County ranks 9th among Missouri counties in wages with an average annual salary of $45,012. Most of the counties which rank higher than Buchanan are those surrounding the two Missouri urban centers of St. Louis and Kansas City.
The 30% growth in Buchanan County wages the past decade exceeded the national average of 23% and the state average of 24%.
The average hourly wage rate for St. Joseph in October ranked fourth behind St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia. St. Joseph’s job growth has outpaced the comparable cities of Springfield and Joplin.
St. Joseph’s unemployment rate in October 2019 was 2.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a vast improvement over the 9% unemployment rate of 2010.
Lilly says the data bucks conventional wisdom.
“Just gives us a bit of a barometer in terms not only of how we’re doing from a local economy standpoint, but just the wage rates in St. Joseph,” according to Lilly. “I think there has always been this mantra that there are no good jobs or jobs that don’t pay well, but certainly the statistics don’t support that. The truth is, we have good-paying jobs in St. Joseph.”
Lilly says the report confirms what the chamber has been observing.
“It reaffirms at least what we have seen or felt for some time, that wages are increasing. But, I think the good news overall for the community is that people are making more money in their paycheck and they’re spending more money in the community and that’s always a very positive thing.”
By Brent Martin of Missourinet affiliate KFEQ in St. Joseph