The Myrtle Beach metropolitan statistical area outpaced the state and nation in job growth from second quarter of 2013 to the same time in 2014, according to a report from SiteTech Systems released Friday afternoon, but still lags behind the state in wage growth.
Employment grew by 3 percent from year to year, 0.3 of a point faster than the state and 0.8 of a point ahead of national employment growth, the report said.
But the 2.3 percent wage growth lagged 0.2 of a point behind pay growth statewide, although it was 0.15 of a point ahead of the nationwide figure.
The report was written using statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and includes Brunswick County, N.C., which the federal government made a part of the Myrtle Beach MSA last year.
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Jobs in Brunswick account for 17 percent of those employed in the MSA, 13 percent of employees live in Georgetown County and the bulk, 70 percent, are Horry County residents.
The report also used job and wage statistics for the second quarter of each year and weighted the overall pay average to reflect differences in wages paid in each county for the same or similar jobs.
SiteTech found that the average wage in the leisure and hospitality industry amounted to just 57 percent of the MSA’s median wage of $29,361, and lowered the overall median by $2,200 a year.
The high side of the pay picture comes from jobs in federal government, average $58,079 in the second quarter of 2014; manufacturing, $47,478; and information, $47,360. The three together have fewer than 12,000 jobs in the MSA.
“When you look at hospitality,” said Stephen Greene, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association, “that includes your part-time, full-time, seasonal employed and they’re all wrapped up into one category.”
People who work year-round in the business make living wages, he said.
Greene said the leisure and hospitality business is so key to the Grand Strand that it likely drives at least some of the higher-paying job sectors, such as construction, which SiteTech said had an average wage of $37,819 in 2014.
Greene also said that the seasonality of the industry means many of its workers will be on the lower pay rung, but conceded that a longer fall tourism season and burgeoning sports tourism are helping to shorten the time when many jobs just disappear.
“As a hospitality industry, we would prefer a more diversified economy,” said Greene, as it would mean year-round paychecks to help support the area’s restaurants and entertainment venues, among other things.
Greene cited recent figures from STR Analytics that he said named the Grand Strand as having the highest occupancy swing in the nation from tourist to non-tourist seasons. The 59 percent swing hits its high in July and low in January, Greene said.
Brad Dean, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed with the SiteTech’s assessment of the influence of tourism and service jobs on the overall economy.
“We are still dependent on the service sector for employment,” he wrote in an email, “and those wages tend to lag behind other industries, keeping us well below other parts of the state.”
That will change as construction continues to grow and the economy diversifies, he said.
But Fred Richardson, board chairman of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., said that other sectors aren’t likely to catch up with the area’s big job producers in the near future.
While there has been some new industry move to the area in recent years as well as expansions by existing industry, he said this area’s just not in the league of Greenville or Charleston.
“We’re not likely to get a Boeing or BMW, the 1,000 jobbers,” he said. “We’re not ideally situated.”
Rather, Richardson said the area likely will see its higher-paying job growth come in 50-job spurts. He said the MBREDC could be announcing two new employers in the next month to six weeks, but the two together will bring only 50 jobs.
He said the report emphasized to him the importance of diversification.
The SiteTech report said that most of the area’s job growth is not in the high-paying industries.
“The slow wage and employment increases coupled with the moderate decreases in the high paying supersectors,” it concluded, “will likely cause the MSA median wage to remain low.”