The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Business & Technology

June 12, 2014

Pay raises go mainly to those in select industries

NEW YORK — If you hope to get a raise that finally feels like one, it helps to work in the right industry.

Pay for all kinds of workers should be rising by this point in the economy's recovery. But five years after the Great Recession officially ended, raises remain sharply uneven across industries and, as a whole, have barely kept up with prices. Overall pay has been rising about 2 percent a year, roughly equal to inflation.

The best raises have gone to workers with specialized skills in a few booming industries — energy, transportation, health care, technology. Those in retail or government have been less fortunate.

"If you're in an in-demand field, with the right skill set, the chance of getting a raise is much higher," says Katie Bardaro, an economist at PayScale, a pay-tracking firm.

Typically in a recovery, raises in a few industries lead to raises in others as workers become confident enough to quit one job for another for more pay.

This time, the subpar recovery has slowed pay gains. Technology has played a role, too. It's lifted pay for people who work, for example, with programs that sift data from your mobile devices so companies can pitch products matched to your interests. Yet workers in industries upended by the Internet, such as retailers left behind by e-commerce, have been hurt.

Here are industry standouts — and laggards — on pay:

OIL AND GAS

Fracking — the pumping of liquid and sand into the ground to squeeze oil from rocks — is opposed by environmentalists worried about pollution. But it's driven a boom in jobs and wages. Oil and gas workers earned an average 11 percent more an hour in April than they did a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's more than five times the average gain across all industries.

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