Chances are you’ve heard it at least once or maybe even said it yourself: “I took a pay cut to come to Austin.” The labor market in Austin can be ruthless. The metropolitan area is adding 50,000-60,000 people per year–roughly the size of the city of San Marcos–and many of those moving here have both talent and multiple diplomas to hang on the wall. With relatively few large corporate headquarters and a business culture that celebrates bootstrapping, competition for good jobs with a career track is fierce. It’s the double-edged sword of an entrepreneurial region.
So if it seems like it’s difficult to get ahead in Austin, you’re not imagining things. Average earnings in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area increased from $43,982 in 2001 to $48,503 in 2008, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That was a gain of 10.3 percent before adjusting for inflation. While it’s great that earnings are going up instead of down, 10.3 percent growth during 2001-2008 ranked 360th out of 367 metro areas in the United States – right behind the thriving economy of Detroit.
Remember to ask about these things next time you hear the talking heads going on and on about Austin’s latest spot at the top of some “best of” list. We have some work left to do.