By Christina Camara
Fairbanks, the interior Alaskan city that is home to the University of Alaska and Fort Wainwright, as well as frigid temperatures and the highest utility costs in the country, saw the largest wage increase in the nation between 2010 and 2011.
"Chilly Fairbanks red hot when it comes to salary hikes," a headline in the Alaska Dispatch put it. Workers in Fairbanks saw an average annual salary increase of $2,700, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which was analyzed by the University of Toronto's Martin Prosperity Institute.
The institute said workers in the majority of US metropolitan areas received substantial raises from 2010 to 2011. Cities with greater concentrations of college graduates are doing better, says Richard Florida, who is director of the institute and editor-at-large of The Atlantic Cities.
These areas tend to have more skilled workers in science, technology, business, and management professions. He pointed out to Yahoo finance blogger Lisa Scherzer that several of the metros with significant wage increases were home to large state universities, including Bloomington (University of Indiana), Iowa City (University of Iowa), and Champaign-Urbana (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
Florida called Fairbanks "a bit of an outlier," as high wages are needed to cover the high cost of living there. For example, the Council for Community and Economic Research says that residents in Alaska's second-largest city in 2011 paid nearly 112 percent more for utilities than typical urban residents in the United States. Fairbanks also had the second-highest medical costs in the country, at 43 percent above average, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
According to a report in The Atlantic Cities, of the large metropolitan areas - those with more than 1 million people - the top raises were offered in:
- San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara areas of California - $2,030
- Seattle/Bellevue/Everett areas of Washington State - $1,680
- Oakland, California, technology area - $1,540
- San Francisco, California, technology area - $1,530
The analysis shows that the largest metros did not offer the highest raises overall: nine of the top ten metropolitan areas (see sidebar) had fewer than 1 million people - San Jose was the only one to make the list.