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In Focus: What jobs pay the best in Del Norte County?

 (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).
(The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Curious about how well your job pay stacks up in the county?

If you're a doctor or a judge, the job is at the top of the list, according to data released this week by the state Employment Development Department.

The news isn't so good for dishwashers and housekeepers, who are at the very bottom.

High wage jobs for the Northcoast region include surgeons, psychiatrists, non-specialty dentists, non-specialty pediatricians, judges, magistrate judges and magistrates.

During the first quarter of 2006, surgeons earned the most, averaging $90.04 an hour. Psychiatrists followed at $89.91. Rounding out the top five were dentists at $78.49, pediatricians at $73.01 and judges at $65.06.

The bottom five?

Dishwashers, for who the median hourly wage is $8.06. Waitresses and waiters follow at $8.50. Fast-food workers, restaurant cooks and housekeeping maids round out the top five at $8.60.

The wages are for non-farm jobs, which make up the majority of the county's labor force. During December, 8,260 of the county's 10,130 working people held wage and salaried jobs.

Not surprisingly, the North-coast's highest paying jobs also are those showing the greatest job growth, the Employment Devel-opment Office figures show.

The professions of computer software engineers/systems software workers, criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, reservation and transportation ticket agents, molders, shapers and casters (of material exclusive of metal and plastic) as showing growth from 30 percent to 50 percent between 2002 and 2012.

That's an increase of 66.7 percent.

Network systems and data communications analysts were projected to grow from 50 percent to 80 percent during the same time period, a 60 percent change.

Overall, Del Norte residents have a per capita income of $20,534, according to 2004 numbers, the most recent numbers available.

Suppressing Del Norte County's wages is its small population, said Larry Lakes, director of Rural Human Resources, under whose umbrella are a myriad of services geared to local low-income residents seeking help.

A major difference exists be-tween Del Norte's per capita in-come and the other Northern Cali-fornia counties.

The county's per capita income is "a full 10 percent less than Trinity and a full 20 percent less than Siskiyou, the next county in size," Lakes said.

"If the prison population is counted in these statistics, then this figure can be skewed with a heavy prison population in Del Norte," Lakes said.

More population equals more sales. And more sales can mean higher-paying jobs.

"The assumption is that higher spending is related to higher average per capita income," Lakes said. "The line to Del Norte is linear."

The average Del Norte resident spends $7,400 per person on retail in the county.

To correct the problem, Del Norte County needs "large-order" increases in private employment jobs, Lakes said, because of the small percentage of private jobs as compared to public sector jobs.

Public sector employees generally earn less than those in the private sector.

A mere 51 percent of Del Norte County employees hold private sector jobs. That compares to 70 percent in Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

"Del Norte is even below small Trinity County in its percentage of private work force," said Lakes.

It reinforces "the dilemma the county faces from expected lower-than-average wages" with employment in the public versus the private sector."

Del Norte County also has an overabundance of service jobs as opposed to manufacturing or construction. Nine in 10 Del Norte jobs are service-oriented.

Most service jobs are low paying.

"Given the fact that service wages tend to be less than employment in non-service industries, again Del Norte ranks highest in percent of service employment," Lakes said. "We need new jobs making things, (such as) repairing things, building things."

Comparing Del Norte County to other counties to see how they've addressed similar problems isn't so easy.

Del Norte County is one of the most unique areas in the United States, Lakes said. It is semi-remote, coastal and not easily accessible.

Indeed, the county's lack of economic growth is an anomaly in California.

Perhaps the fairest comparisons between Del Norte and other California counties comes when Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity and Siskiyou counties are held up to Del Norte.

"Humboldt and Mendocino are on the coast, but have much larger population centers," Lakes said. said. "Trinity and Siskiyou are also somewhat remote, but are closer to the I-5 Corridor."

•••••

Best paying jobs ...

•Surgeons $90.04

•Psychiatrists $89.91

•Dentists $78.49

•Pediatricians $73.01

•Judges $65.06

... and lowest paying

•Dishwashers $8.06

•Wait staff $8.50

•Fast-food $8.50

•Cooks $8.60

•Housekeeping $8.60

NOTE: Wages are per hour across Northcoast

SOURCE: California Employment Development Department

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