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Top Five Industries for Salary Growth

Looking for a well-paid job in construction or real estate? Most people know that the chances of getting hired or getting a raise in either of those industries are pretty slim these days. In fact, average salaries in both real estate and construction are down even from where they were a year ago. But, there are industries where wages are finally growing, post-recession.

Online salary database PayScale.com has collected salary data dating back to 2006 to create a new economic indicator, The PayScale Index. The PayScale Index, which will be refreshed quarterly, tracks the changes in average wages of private industry, full-time employees in 16 different industries. It’s clear that the recession hit every sector. But, which industries suffered the greatest wage losses and which are recovering fastest?

The following is a list of the top five industries for salary growth and the percentage of average wage increase between Q3 2009 and Q3 2010 for each:

1. Utilities +0.8%
This industry’s resilience isn’t too surprising considering that, no matter what the economy is doing, consumers are likely going to spend money on electricity, natural gas and other basics, says Al Lee, PayScale’s director of quantitative analysis. They may try to cut back on electricity use, but they’ll still need it and pay for it.

2. Mining, Oil & Gas Exploration +0.6%
Commodities have been doing well in recent years, with the price of gold up fourfold since 2001, according to OnlyGold.com. Plus, oil and gas exploration continues to expand through the use of new extraction technologies and the discovery of new deposits. And, oil and gas demand tends to stay high because it is measured internationally and if one country is growing slowly for a while and using less petroleum another one is booming and consuming more, says Lee.

3. Finance & Insurance +0.5%
Banks suffered big human resource losses during the recession, with layoffs becoming the norm. Yet, while many finance industry people may remain unemployed, those who have jobs are seeing an increase in wages. Lee suspects this is due to a return to profitability across the industry in 2010, after the crisis and federal bailouts of 2008 and early 2009.

4. Health Care & Social Assistance +0.2%
Health care is not a cyclical industry so it’s no surprise that it is on the positive side, according to Lee. “People don’t stop going in for surgery or high blood pressure medication,” he says. Compared to all of the industries in The PayScale Index, health care suffered a relatively small, brief drop in wages during the recession.

5. Retail +0.2%
Retail certainly wasn’t the place to be when the recession was hitting bottom, but it wasn’t the worst and is currently showing signs of life. And, considering how badly retail was hit during the recession, this uptick is a strong hint at economic recovery. Less than half a percent of growth is very small, but it isn’t negative and that’s the key point, says Lee.

How Are Other Industries Doing?
Of the 16 industries The PayScale Index tracks, seven of them have experienced upward wage trends, or at least not losses remained steady in the last year. Among the remaining industries, those recovering the slowest are still seeing a dip in wages over the previous year:
1. Construction -0.8%

2. Business Operation & Support Services -0.6%

3. Real Estate & Rental Services -0.5%

4. Arts, Entertainment & Recreation -0.5%

5. Information, Media & Telecommunications -0.3%

By Bridget Quigg


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