The List: Top Ten Counties in New Jersey for Highest Wages

The best places for higher-wage jobs are in northern and central NJ. But pay hikes in Garden State straggle behind national average

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New Jersey’s employment rate grew faster than that of the nation in the last quarter of 2017, but the average weekly wage in the state increased at a slower rate, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While pay hikes were smaller than the United States average, New Jersey’s typical salary remained significantly higher than the nation’s — it was $1,262 per week on average for the state, compared with $1,109 for the U.S., the data released last week shows. However, workers in fewer than half the counties in the Garden State earned an average salary higher than that of the nation.

The data presents a picture of uneven employment opportunities in New Jersey, with all nine counties with the highest wages located in the northern or central parts of the state. It also shows the continued sluggishness of the state’s post-recession recovery, a decade after the start of the Great Recession; in only one county — Morris — did salaries increase at a level equal to that of the nation; no county in the Garden State exceeded the U.S. average wage increase of 3.9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the fourth quarter of 2017.

The overall wage hike of 1.8 percent for New Jersey was lower than all the states and the District of Columbia except for Alaska. Still, New Jersey had the sixth highest average pay, behind D.C., Massachusetts, New York, California and Connecticut. (The average weekly salary in the nation’s capital totaled $1,812.)

According to Martin Kohli, chief regional economist for the BLS, the pay increase in Morris County ranked among the top 100 of the country’s 346 largest counties (defined as those with at least 75,000 employed). Nine of New Jersey’s 15 large counties ranked among the 100 across the country with the highest average salaries.

New Jersey fared better in the number of people getting jobs than in pay increases. The number employed statewide grew at a slightly faster rate than that of the nation, increasing by 1.6 percent here, compared with 1.5 percent for the U.S. as a whole. Some counties did even better, with employment increasing by 2.7 percent in Gloucester, the highest rate in the state and 52nd best rate among the largest counties nationwide.

Here, according to the BLS data, are the New Jersey counties with the highest weekly wages in the fourth quarter of 2017 and statistics about their employment:

1. Morris County

The average salary was $1,582, the 12th highest wage among the largest counties in the nation. Morris also had the highest one-year pay increase of 3.9 percent, identical to the national average and the 92nd highest percentage increase in the U.S. The county had about 296,000 workers, an increase of 1.4 percent.

2. Somerset County

Just one rank behind Morris, Somerset’s average salary ranked 13th highest in the U.S. at $1,568. That was less than half of 1 percent higher than a year earlier. The county had about 190,000 employed, an increase of 0.3 percent.

3. Hudson County

The average salary was $1,408, 3.1 percent higher than the prior year, which was the second highest rate of increase in the state. That gave Hudson the 20th highest salary in the nation. Hudson also had the second highest rate of growth in employment, 2.5 percent, to a total of 268,000.

4. Union County

The $1,385 average salary was 2.4 percent higher than the previous year and made Union the 22nd highest paying county in the nation. The workforce grew by 0.7 percent to almost 225,000.

5. Mercer County

The average salary of $1,355 was ranked 25th nationally. But Mercer was the only large county in New Jersey where the average pay dropped: by less than half of 1 percent. Employment was up 1.3 percent to about 254,000.

6. Essex County

With the 35th highest salary in the nation, Essex logged an average wage of $1,318, which was 1.8 percent higher than the previous year. Employment grew by 1.5 percent to almost 350,000.

7. Bergen County

The $1,298 average wage was 1.2 percent higher than in 2016 and made Bergen the 39th highest paying county in the country. Employment rose by a little less than 1 percent to more than 458,000, giving Bergen the most workers of any New Jersey county.

8. Hunterdon County

The average salary was $1,273. Because Hunterdon has a relatively small workforce — less than 48,000 — the BLS did not calculate percent changes or rank it against other counties across the country.

9. Middlesex County

The $1,259 average pay was just below the state average and increased by 1.9 percent. With the state’s second largest workforce, Middlesex had 440,000 workers, almost 2 percent more than the prior year.

10. Burlington County

The average salary of $1,105 was just below the national average. It rose 1.7 percent over the prior year. Burlington’s workforce grew by less than 1 percent to total more than 209,000.