Wages in Arizona outpaced the nation last year, but it remains to be seen how high gasoline and natural gas prices will affect consumers’ pocketbooks, analysts said Thursday.
The average weekly wage in Maricopa County hit $801, an increase of 5.7 percent over 2004, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday.
Yet, the average weekly gross income of Arizonans is less than the $812 earned by their counterparts nationwide.
In addition to a lack of "old-line manufacturing" and heavily governmentoriented payrolls, Arizona’s youthful population also contributes to lower average wages because younger workers typically earn less, said Tracy Clark, associate director of the Bank One Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University.
"We also have a fair number of illegal aliens and people like that who are willing to take lower wages for doing the same job, and that tends to hold things down," Clark said.
Valley economist Elliott Pollack is skeptical about the numbers because they don’t illustrate real wages.
Californians may earn $928 on average per week, but Arizonans don’t face the high property, gasoline and other consumer costs that they do, Pollack said.
"Those numbers are deceiving. . . . We looked at this issue in-depth about a year ago, and we found that Phoenix is right in the middle. It’s not a high-wage place and it’s not a low-wage place," Pollack said.
Despite lower consumer costs than elsewhere, it’s going to take time to see how both higher earnings and energy costs will affect Arizona’s economy this fall, Clark said.
"The relevant question is whether there’s going to be enough of a pinch to stop the buying spree and just buy gas and heat homes. But it doesn’t look like that right now," Clark said.