The job market has been steadily improving during the past year, with the unemployment rate falling to 7% as of November. Economists are estimating that an average of 189,000 jobs will be created monthly in 2014. But while the employment scene has gained ground, the improvements in wages has not -- which is due to slack in the market. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the second quarter of 2013 versus the same period in 2012, there are still plenty of counties across the nation that have seen a decline in average weekly wages. If you're looking for a higher paycheck, steer clear of these five counties.
1. El Paso, CO: -1.1%
Located south of Denver, El Paso County boasts the second-largest population in the state of Colorado. With Colorado Springs at its seat, the county is supported by a heavy military presence, with the United States Air Force Academy, Fort Carson Army Base, Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, and North American Aerospace Defense Command all calling the county home.
Colorado, as a whole, has experienced wage growth year over year of 1.6%, but with sequestration putting a damper on government (i.e. military) spending, El Paso County was hit particularly hard. In addition, the loss of businesses and homes due to the large wildfires in the region have also stunted economic growth in the region.
2. Frederick, MD: -0.9%
As a part of the Washington Metropolitan Area, Frederick has plenty of reasons to be operating at full steam. During the recession, federal spending helped keep the region's economy afloat, spurring on a burst of population growth. But as other areas across the nation begin to recover, that growth is slowing down.
The sequester has also put a damper on the region's economy, with a host of national parks, Camp David, and Fort Detrick employing members of the Frederick population. Though Maryland has had a steady growth rate of 1.4%, Frederick has some catching up to do.
3. Washington, OR: -1.3%
Just outside of Portland, Washington County is considered part of the Portland Metropolitan Area. The county is home to a number of big corporations, including Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Intel's manufacturing base, and segments of IBM's operations. Washington County has seen a resurgence of tech operations over the past year, with employees of tech companies taking in 12% of the state's total wages. With such a heavy concentration of the companies residing in Washington County, there is hope that the decline in wages will reverse to match the overall state's growth rate of 1.3% shortly.
4. Davidson, TN: -2.2%
Home to Nashville, Davidson County is the second most populace county within Tennessee. But for residents, the decline in wages can't be appreciated -- the county's 2.2% drop marked the biggest loser on the Bureau of Statistic's list for 2013. Tennessee, as a whole, tied for second with Wyoming for the smallest increase in statewide wages -- a measly 0.5% -- beating out New Mexico's 0.3% drop.
Nashville is a big tourism attraction, with the county relying on it for tourists' dollars. But because the State of Tennessee doesn't have a personal income tax, and the City/County (a combined government) has a low tax approach to businesses, the local government has had to push new development for revenue generation -- something that has been difficult in the past few years following the recession. But with personal income across the county continuing to improve, more tourism could lead to the County's growth in the coming years.
5. Whatcom, WA: -1.5%
At the topmost part of Washington State sits Whatcom County. Much of its economy is driven by out-of-towners heading to its retailers. But with its largest city, Bellingham, an hour-and-a-half drive from Seattle, the county doesn't try to attract that city's populace. Instead, it targets Canadian shoppers looking to get in on American deals.
Vancouver, BC is only an hour drive from Bellingham, and the Canadian economy has continued to move forward with strength. New state laws regarding growing, processing, and selling marijuana could have a positive effect on the county in the coming months. The state Liquor Control Board has already approved up to 15 stores in Whatcom County for the sale of recreational marijuana. Since Canada's pot laws are still disjointed, Whatcom County may see increased instances of people (unwisely) crossing the boarder for the purchase of the drug.
Tough time anywhere
The country's wages have fallen or stagnated in many counties across the nation, and income equality has never been so low. But for those people who are working hard and earning their living, there may be good news on the horizon. As the economy continues to improve, and demand for goods and investments rise, employers may begin to loosen their grip on wage control, and pay their employees more.
Fool contributor Jessica Alling has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Nike. The Motley Fool owns shares of International Business Machines and Nike. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.