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Employment Cost Index for private industry (Chart by Flourish)
Employment Cost Index for private industry (Chart by Flourish)

“Swift swings” takes a quick peek at one economic trend.

The number: Southern California workers got an average 5% increase in wages and salary last year compared with 4.6% nationally.

The source: My trusty spreadsheet looked at the . The index tracks what bosses pay in wages and salaries for 15 regions – including a local area comprising Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties – as well as national patterns. Local data dates to the end of 2006.

Quick analysis

It’s the ninth consecutive year Southern California pay raises topped what US workers got.

Southern California pay hikes for 2023 ranked No. 5 of the 15 regions, topped by Philadelphia (5.8%), Washington, DC (5.5%), Miami (5.4%), and Seattle (5.1%). The Bay Area was second-to-last at 3.9%. Houston raises were lowest at 3.7%

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This is the third straight year local wages were 5% or better.

In 2022, Southern California raises ran 5.8% compared with 5.3% nationally. And in 2021, local hikes averaged 5.5% vs. 4% nationally. That 1.5 percentage-point advantage was the largest gap in this pay benchmark’s 17-year history.

The substantial pay hikes help explain how the local economy keeps afloat despite the region’s lofty cost of living – not to mention high inflation rates. The average Southern Californian during the past three years got a 5.4% raise while local Consumer Price indexes jumped 5.8% annually.


During the nine-year winning streak, Southern California workers enjoyed 4.2% average raises compared with 3.3% nationally – and 0.9 percentage-point advantage for the region.

Those Southern California raises were the largest among the 15 US regions. No. 2 was Phoenix at 3.8% then Seattle at 3.7%. The Bay Area was No. 6 at 3.4%. Again, Houston raises were lowest at 2.7%

This was quite a switch from the previous eight years – economic times scarred by a real estate bust, a global financial crisis, and the Great Recession. Between 2007 and 2014, Southern California pay raises only averaged 2% compared to 2.1% nationally – a 0.1 percentage-point shortfall locally.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California ɫ̳ Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com


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