The average Floyd County resident was making $853 a week during the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this week. The data shows that Floyd County residents rank fifth among the 15-county Northwest Georgia region.

Pickens County remains at the top of the list with an average weekly wage of $898, followed by Bartow County at $881, Whitfield County at $873 and Haralson County at $865. Gordon County checked in right behind Floyd with an average weekly wage of $826.

Gilmer County residents made the least money across the 15-county region at $613.

The Floyd County wage was up a modest $7 from the previous year.

“We are encouraged that it is up from 2017,” said Jeanne Krueger, interim president of the Rome-Floyd Chamber. “We continue to work hard to help our existing industries expand and locate new industries here that pay wages that attract young professionals and people of all ages.”

Three counties across the region actually showed decreases from the fourth quarter of 2017. The average in Pickens County was down $1 from the same period a year earlier, and Whitfield County fell 6.3% from $931 a year ago, while Gordon County fell by $6 from $832.

Murray County was unchanged at $709 and the remaining counties all showed modest gains in average weekly wages.

Lloyd Frasier, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, said the changing workplace may in some part be responsible for the modest increase in wages across the region. Northwest Georgia was so heavily tied to the textile industry in years gone by that as that industry has evolved, the role of the average employee has changed dramatically.

“It’s all about training and it’s all about retraining,” Frasier said. “The flooring industry is coming back, but everything is extremely high tech and driven by computers. That’s where we come in, working with the technical colleges, to train these people how to use the high-tech machinery.”

Frasier said industry recognizes the fact that they may have to pay more to attract the kind of workers that are capable of running the modern equipment.

Krueger said that the new generation, the so-called millennials, are not always as concerned about their bottom line wage as they are with affordable housing, quality of life and experiential opportunities.

“We know that with young people, they’re deciding where to move prior to taking a job somewhere. With that, our trails, our rivers and our vibrant downtown add to a quality of life that is very appealing,” Krueger said. “Our industries are adding more competitive packages to younger employees by giving extended time off or better benefits, and I really appreciate that because it seems to be something that is drawing people in.”

The chamber chief said she was not really surprised by the shift of the millennial generation away from overarching concerns for the top dollar.

“I have two young professional children. One is a teacher here in Rome and Floyd County, so looking at things through her eyes has been very interesting to me,” Krueger said.

The new group of resident physicians that are continuing their medical training at Redmond Regional Medical Center also reinforced the importance of quality of life and affordable housing.

Having pointed out that quality of life is more critical than ever, Krueger said, “We want to be absolutely competitive across the state, we want to be as good as, if not better, and we are always working toward that.”

The national average weekly wage for the fourth quarter was $1,144, while the state average for October, November and December of last year was $1,053.

Rome Mayor Bill Collins believes that action taken last week by the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority to bring in Melissa “Missy” Kendrick to take the lead role in the recruitment of new industry is indicative of the importance community leaders have placed on bringing new, well-paying jobs to the community.

“We took a good first step,” Collins said. “We hope to bump up wages in Rome and Floyd County in a big way in the coming weeks and months. I hope this will bring us more in line with not only Georgia, but the national averages and even outperform that.”

Kendrick will start her new post in Rome on Aug. 1.

Lloyd Frasier, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, said the latest unemployment report may have a double-edged sword impact on the job market. The May jobless rate for the Northwest Georgia region was 3.3%, while the rate for Floyd County was 3.6%. Frasier said some industries have shown a willingness to pay more for trained workers, while others feel that a potential employer might not pay as much because they feel that workers are willing to take whatever jobs they can find.