- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Federal workers in St. Mary’s County had a higher weekly wage than their counterparts anywhere else in the state last year, a state report shows.
That helped keep St. Mary’s County’s average weekly wages for all workers second highest in the state, behind Montgomery County.
The average weekly wage paid to a federal government worker in St. Mary’s nudged just past Montgomery County’s in 2011 — $2,029 to $2,023.
For all sectors of employment, the average weekly wage in St. Mary’s was $1,190 ($61,880 annually) compared with Montgomery County’s $1,273 ($66,196 annually).
However, there is a large gap between federal government jobs and those working in the private sector in St. Mary’s. The average weekly wage in the private sector was $990. That’s $51,480 a year compared with $105,508 for federal workers.
“The economy of [Patuxent River Naval Air Station] is driving the county and the numbers speak for themselves,” said St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R), an executive with a defense contracting firm. “We’re indeed fortunate to have the numbers. The county should be proud that we have a place like Pax River we can call home.”
In overall wages, “we’re really the same” as Montgomery County, said Laura Boonchaisri, economic development coordinator for St. Mary’s County government.
Montgomery has a much larger population (971,777 people) than St. Mary’s (101,151). Of the 511,813 workers in Montgomery County, 9.7 percent are employed by the federal government. In St. Mary’s, 20 percent of the 54,370 workers are employed by the federal government.
“I think it’s a great sign for the types of jobs that we have here,” Boonchaisri said. The cost of living is relatively low, but the quality of life is high, “this is a great place to live and work.”
Another statistic that sets St. Mary’s County apart is the number of people who work within the county. More than 76 percent of the county’s workforce go to jobs in St. Mary’s.
“That’s really high for this area and Maryland,” Boonchaisri said.
In Montgomery County, 60 percent of the workers stay within the county’s borders. In Calvert County, 40 percent work within the county and in Charles County, 37 percent work inside the county.
But Morgan said while the wages look good on the surface, St. Mary’s is in a precarious position.
“We are a one-horse town,” he said, depending solely on Pax River. Montgomery County has several different federal agencies to rely on for employment.
At Pax River, “it’s defense dollars — subject to the ebbs and flows of the Defense Department,” he said.