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Households in the Huntsville area are earning $20,000 more than two decades ago, and inflation and competition in the job market could drive it up even further.
The 2020 median household income in Huntsville Metro was $66,450 and adjusted for inflation at $65,244. In 2001 it was $44,285 and $53,870 ($54,802 adjusted for inflation) in 2010, according to the US Census American Community Survey.
“Absolutely, inflation affects your wages,” said Jeff Thompson, a research fellow at the UAH Center for Economic Management and Research. “It’s a mismatch. Employers simply cannot increase compensation arbitrarily. They will have to raise wages to help workers continue to have the means to buy gasoline to come to work, for example.
“What happened last year, with regard to wages, we all need to raise wages because of the inflationary component of the economy, and secondly, to be competitive,” added Madison Mayor Paul Finley.
The inflation rate in the United States was 8.6% in May, the highest since December 1981. And there are between 16,000 and 25,000 jobs available in the metro area.
“Because of the job opportunities here, the growth in a number of industries, from the defense industry to manufacturing to the service industry, we’re going to see the county area of Huntsville-Madison (median household income) to continue to grow given the challenges of recruiting labor across the country,” said Thompson.
Mazda Toyota, which opened in 2018, employs just over 2,000 but is looking to hit 4,000. Blue Origin is looking to double its workforce since opening in 2020.
Thompson said median household income has risen 1-2% over most of the past two decades.
“Now you see a 3-4% increase,” he said. “If you look at inflation, it’s in double digits. Our workforce cannot afford to earn less and less in real terms forever.
Thompson, Finley and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, who chairs the Huntsville Area Metropolitan Organization, attribute the increase over the past two decades to job growth in the area.
“The employment and job growth in North Alabama and Madison County and especially in Huntsville over the past two decades has been quite phenomenal,” Thompson said. “Over the past two decades we have seen significant developments at Redstone Arsenal, in the automotive industry, the aerospace industry and the kinds of businesses that support people. This has increased quite significantly.
“North Alabama’s economy is vibrant,” Strong added. “I think it will even go further. I think the diversification of our economy is what has led to this success. I think it’s a number of things, whether it’s white collar or blue collar. You have a very strong income base to support a family, buy a quality home. This sets you up with a good economy.
Local government officials such as Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle point to the rise of advanced manufacturing jobs such as those produced by Mazda Toyota, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Remington, Blue Origin and Polaris having as much impact as high-paying aerospace and defense. Industries. And all but Toyota Motor Manufacturing opened after 2014. Toyota Motor Manufacturing opened in 2001. According to the Milken Institute, wages have increased in the Huntsville area by 8.4% from 2015 to 2020.
“One person in the household who gets a better job definitely increases that household’s income,” Thompson said. “If you have a second spouse who gets a job at Mazda Toyota, for example, you increase the household income even more.”
A member of the Mazda Toyota production team can earn between $19 and $25.65 an hour. A general-purpose maintenance worker at the Mazda Toyota manufacturing plant can earn between $26.29 and $36.65 an hour and will receive a signing bonus of $3,000 if hired before the 27th June.
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the average take-home pay per week in the Huntsville metro is $1,302, or $36.91 an hour in March. Wages in the Huntsville area increased by more than $2 an hour a year ago.
“It’s not so much the business as the job opportunities that increase median household income the most,” Thompson said.