We work less, make a little more in southeastern Connecticut

Where do people earn the most while working the least?

Researchers at RewardExpert, a free online service that exists to help travelers save money, dreamed up the question, then set out to answer it by crunching U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on average workweek hours and wages earned by private, nonfarm workers in 387 metropolitan areas.

Among the top 10 places where people work “shorter, better-paid hours,” the Norwich-New London-Westerly area, which includes all of New London County, ranks seventh, according to a RewardExpert report released last week.

The area, with a population of more than a quarter-million people, encompasses the cities of New London, with a population of 27,000, Norwich (40,000) and Westerly (23,000), and “makes up an integrated social/economic region in which wages are on the lower end of the typical range” found in a broader region RewardExpert defined as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In March 2018, wages in the area averaged $28.61 per hour, the report says, “but the average workweek of area employees amounts to a bucolic 31.9 hours per week." 

The report notes that a wide range of industries employs workers in the area, “with a major contribution from tourism,” which helps explain the numbers.

“In terms of our report and its findings, we can see the tourism industry as a major driver of the area’s short work weeks and relatively high wages,” Rowan Tepper, a RewardExpert senior analyst, wrote in an email exchange. “The tourism industry includes a lot of seasonal and part time jobs, while bringing in revenue to support higher wages — which are in part also driven by relatively high costs of housing and other living expenses, and a higher state minimum wage than elsewhere in the country.”

“The ability to work shorter, better-paid hours is a sign of a market’s economic strength,” Vlad Tyschuk, a RewardExpert co-founder, said in a news release touting the report.

Donald Klepper-Smith, an economist who served as chairman of former Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Economic Advisory Council between 2007 and 2010, might agree. Asked to review the report, he chose to focus on southeastern Connecticut’s gains in manufacturing employment in recent years.

He noted that the latest state Department of Labor data show that while the number of jobs in the Norwich-New London-Westerly area grew by 1.5 percent in May compared to the previous May, manufacturing jobs grew by 8.8 percent — nearly six times the overall rate.

Growth in manufacturing jobs is particularly advantageous, Klepper-Smith said, because such jobs beget more jobs.

“For every job created in manufacturing, another 1.5 jobs are created elsewhere in non-manufacturing sectors,” he said. “Manufacturing jobs create non-manufacturing jobs, not the other way around.”

Hiring at Electric Boat, for example, leads to hiring at the submarine-builder’s suppliers and creates demand for housing and infrastructure improvments, he said.

And, Klepper-Smith added, “Wages in manufacturing are way higher than they are in non-manufacturing. … We all have a vested interest in growing manufacturing jobs.”

In the RewardExpert report, the Mankato-North Mankato, Minn., metropolitan area ranks first, a consequence of its having the third-shortest average work week in the country (29 hours) as well as an average hourly wage of $26.35, substantially above the national average. The Corvallis, Ore., metropolitan area ranks second, followed by the Chico, Calif., metropolitan area. The three top-ranked areas are all home to state university campuses.

Barnstable, Mass., the largest municipality on Cape Cod, ranks fourth, the only other Northeast area in the top 10. The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metropolitan area ranks near the top 10, at No. 12. 

For Tepper, the RewardExpert analyst, the most important takeaway from the report is that “the truth is often counterintuitive.”

“When it is a question like the one we asked and answered in this report, the places that come out on top are most often a mixture of obvious ones and ones that you might never have considered,” he wrote. “We hope our readers … will find our analyses interesting, informative and valuable enough to return to read and learn more from our data wrangling and number crunching.”

RewardExpert derives revenue from commissions paid by banks whose credit cards it recommends. The full report can be found on its website, www.rewardexpert.com

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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