South Florida outpaced the nation in job growth at the start of 2013, but didn't fare as well when it came to higher wages, according to new federal data.
Manatee County, part of the metropolitan statistical area including Bradenton, Sarasota and North Port, managed a 1.1 percent average wage increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average weekly wages for the nation increased 0.6 percent during the year ending in the first quarter or roughly half that of the Manatee MSA.
The 239,850 workers employed in the Manatee-Sarasota MSA earned an average hourly wage of $14.48, good for $580 per week, and an annual median wage of $39,800.
The latest industry-level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts Broward and Miami-Dade counties in the upper third of the 334 largest counties when it comes to increased employment and weekly wages for the first quarter.
Among the largest counties, 232 had over-the-year increases in average weekly wages. San Mateo, Calif., had the largest wage increase among the largest U.S. counties at 14.8 percent.
The decent marks on hiring in larger Florida MSAs -- Miami-Dade took the No. 74 slot and Broward No. 91 -- reflect a year that started well for South Florida but then brought a slowdown in
more recent hiring employment data.
"We had this deceleration of growth in 2013," said Robert Cruz, official economist for Miami-Dade County. "It's been here for a while."
This summer brought rising anxiety among consumers as Republicans threaten to block raising the debt ceiling, creating concerns of another stock market tumble or worse.
The coming implementation of President Obama's health care plan has been cited by businesses as one reason to hold back on expanding payrolls.
While home values continue to rise, up 14 percent in South Florida year-over-year, according to the latest Case-Shiller numbers, consumer confidence statewide dipped in September for the third straight month, according to the University of Florida.
Scoring the hiring market involves a steady stream of data from the federal government, and not all of them point in the same direction. The latest batch comes from a quarterly counting of payroll numbers.
The quarterly numbers lag the monthly reports but are considered more reliable because they're made up of detailed data from industries throughout the country's largest counties.
The report issued Thursday shows employment up 2.6 percent in Miami-Dade at the start of 2013 and up 2.4 percent in Broward -- well above the national average of a 1.6 percent gain. Last week, the latest BLS monthly report showed roughly the same growth in Broward, with employment up 3.1 percent in August, but a far slower pace in Miami-Dade, with hiring up less than 1 percent.)
On the wage front, South Florida's scores weren't as impressive.
Miami-Dade's average weekly wage at the start of 2013, $912, was up .9 percent from the prior year. That gave the county the No. 141 slot out of 335 large counties. Broward didn't fare as well, with just a .1 percent increase to an average weekly wage of $878. That gain ranked 216th on the list.
Of the 334 U.S. largest counties, 92 experienced over-the-year decreases in average weekly wages.
Williamson, Texas, had the largest average weekly wage decrease with a loss of 13.4 percent. Within Williamson, trade, transportation, and utilities had the largest impact on the county's average weekly wage decrease.
Within this industry, average weekly wages declined by $436 (-24.2 percent) over the year. Middlesex, N.J., had the second largest decrease in average weekly wages, followed by Peoria, Ill.; Washington, Ore.; and Santa Cruz, Calif.
The quarterly wage figures do not adjust for inflation, which measures the rise and fall of prices.
Factoring in the federal government's inflation measure, South Florida wages peaked between 2005 and 2007, and are down about 5 percent since.
Ali Bustamante, a researcher at Florida International University and author of a recent report on wages in Florida, said the recovery has yet to bring enough hiring to make a difference in the average worker's paycheck.
-- Terry O'Connor contributed to this report