Official: Average wage not indication of what average worker earns

CNJ graphic: Sharna Johnson

Sharna Johnson

According to the state, the average weekly wage in Curry County for private industry employees was $551 in 2010, but those who work closely with local wage information say it’s not an indication of what the average person in the area earns.

An employee making the average wage would earn about $28,652 a year, according to data from the state Workforce Development Center.

The statewide average is $730 a week, or $37,960 a year.

The average is drawn by totaling private industry wages and dividing by the number employed in a given area.

“We wish,” said Lexie Myers, owner of Snelling Staffing. “Eight to nine dollars an hour is what I’m seeing. I’d take one of those jobs (at the average wage).”

Myers said the majority of the jobs her employment company deals with are labor, clerical, production and industrial.

While there are jobs in the community earning $30,000 a year, they are for more experienced workers rather than entry level, she said.

What that means, Myers said, is that the typical worker is living paycheck to paycheck.”

Of disclosed professions in private industry, data shows the highest paid workers in the community are utility workers, making an average of $1,200 a week.

The lowest paid workers — accounting for the third and fourth largest categories, with more than 3,200 employees — in Curry County were those in recreational and entertainment and food services at an average weekly wage of $231 to $239.

State, federal and local government employees, however, had average pay ranges from $669 for local to $835 for federal, according to the report.

The average Clovis household — in which there was typically more than one income — earned $46,300 in 2010, said Clovis Legislative and Community Relations Director Claire Burroughs.

State data shows Curry County in 16th place for average wages among the 33 counties, and Burroughs said the area is in line with income levels in other rural communities.

Looking at the state calculated average wage means “if that’s the average, then a lot of people are making less than that. Half the population is making less than that presumably,” Burroughs said.

But she said there is a significant percentage of the population who are below poverty level, particularly single female heads of household, for whom Burroughs said the poverty numbers are climbing.

In 2000, the percentage of female householders below poverty level was 42 percent. Between 2005 and 2009, that number rose to 49 percent, and for female households with children under age 5, poverty levels jumped from 60.6 percent in 2000 to 70.8 percent by 2009, she said.

Poverty in Curry County is higher than the state as a whole, Burroughs said.

“I think it’s the nature of rural jobs,” she said, citing seasonal agriculture and labor work as factors.

It makes things difficult, she said, “with what people have to pay for housing, particularly rental housing and how that’s gone up in the last few years and the challenges that the population is facing as a result of that.”