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Rosier Picture for US Workers’ Wages in Q4 2011


By Bridget Quigg,

How have wages fared in the US over the past year? Can any group wave goodbye to the recession besides the oil & gas industry? just released its Q4 2011 wage trend results for The PayScale Index and nearly everyone now has reason to smile.

The PayScale Index measures the change in wages of employed US workers, highlighting trends in compensation for jobs over time.

“For the first time since 2008, wage increases are being seen across the board and not just for workers in high-tech and energy industries. Granted, these increases are small compared to those seen pre-2008, but they are a sign that the economy is on the right track,” said Katie Bardaro, director of analytics at PayScale.

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Of the 20 metropolitan areas The PayScale Index covers, only one metro, Riverside, Calif, still suffers from significant wage losses. And, as for the 15 industries, 19 job categories and three company sizes covered by The PayScale Index, earnings in all of them are essentially flat or growing. Even the beleaguered construction industry has ended its recession-induced wage free-fall, for now.

Winning Cities

The following metros came in on top for wage growth over the last twelve months.

1. Houston
2. Miami
3. Chicago
4. Washington, DC
5. Seattle

Want to know the bottom five cities? See our city rankings for The PayScale Index.

Winning Industries

The following industries lead wage growth in 2011.

1. Mining, Oil & Gas Exploration
2. Utilities
3. Information, Media & Telecommunications
4. Arts, Entertainment & Recreation
5. Professional, Scientific & Tech Services

Are you curious how your industry’s wage trends compare? See our industry rankings for The PayScale Index.

Q4 2011 Highlights from The PayScale Index

Similar Q3 2011, jobs related to energy or technology, particularly highly-skilled ones, continue to be the real wage winners over the last 12 months.

Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, DC are major tech hubs and saw good wage growth over the last year.

Unlike previous quarters of The PayScale Index, Q4 2011 had no real wage losers other than Riverside, Calif. Riverside suffered a tremendous wage depression when the housing bubble burst and has not been able to recover.

For the first time since Q3 2009, construction workers experienced positive annual trends in pay – a growth of 0.4 percent over the previous year.

Food service and restaurant workers are still earning pay below their 2006 levels.

Retail workers (dominated by retail salespeople, cashiers, and similar roles) have wages that are only 2 percent higher than their 2006 levels. By comparison, engineering wages have grown over 7 percent in the same time period.

Wages for manufacturing jobs also experienced their largest quarterly growth this past quarter, rising over 1.5 percent from Q3 to Q4 of 2011.

For more detail on The PayScale Index, see the methodology.

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