Where in the heck is Rock Island County, Ill., and how fast can I get there?

According to a report by one of my favorite data sites for labor figures -- the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics -- Rock Island County in Illinois near the Iowa border had the largest over-the-year gain in average weekly wages in the second quarter of 2008, up 10.5%, with most of it in manufacturing jobs. The U.S. average weekly wage rose by 2.6% during that time.

In other words, workers there received the largest percentage raises in the entire country. Raises in a recession? What is happening in Rock Island County? Are they manufacturing money? Are the streets paved with gold? What is made there that is selling so well? Unfortunately, the BLS report doesn't get into those details, and in my limited research I couldn't find much out about the county.

But the 23-page BLS report, happily titled "County Employment and Wages: Second Quarter 2008," does have plenty of interesting information that shows where the best paying jobs are, and where most jobs are being lost.


The bad news was that from June 2007 to June 2008, employment declined in more than half of the largest U.S. counties, with the worst being an 8.8% drop in Lee County, Fla., where Cape Coral and Fort Myers are. The national rate was 0.3%. At the top of the list among large counties was Orleans County, La., which includes New Orleans, with the largest percentage increase in employment at 5.6%.

Texas is also a good place to find a job, as its counties had seven of the top 10 spots for counties with high percentage growth rates in employment, with the best being 4.3% in Williamson County, Texas.

But let's get back to Rock Island County, with its high raises. While barely beating out Weld, Colorado's 10.4% gain in weekly wages, the dollar figure is $82 more per week in Rock Island County, compared to $72 in Weld, Colo., and the national average of $21.

It must be fairly cheap to live in Rock Island County. The average weekly wage is $861, just $20 more than the national average of $841.

So what's in Rock Island County that is attracting such gracious employers? The county web site doesn't offer much detail, and the only jobs the county has listed are for nursing assistants and a court services supervisor. It is part of the 360,000 residents in the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area, all of whom must be happy, and sits along the Mississippi River on the Illinois-Iowa border between Chicago and Des Moines.

Sounds like a lovely place to live, and work.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.talesofanunemployeddad.blogspot.com


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