New York • If you hope to get a raise that finally feels like one, it helps to work in the right industry.
Historically, at this stage in the economy’s recovery, pay would be rising in most sectors. 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.
Though many temp workers would like full-time jobs with benefits, at least their pay is climbing. Robert Half International, a staffing firm, says higher pay for its temps forced it to raise the rates it charges employers by 2.6 percent in the first quarter, a point higher than its increase late last year.
Non-managers at computer-system design companies earned an average 4.1 percent more in April than a year ago, the latest in a string of increases beginning in 2012. Their pay hadn’t risen in the three prior years. Pay is strong for specialists in "Big Data" — digital information that includes data culled from mobile devices to spot trends or build digital dossiers on people.
Also hot are people who use technology to help health care providers digitize medical records. Nearly three-quarters of health care providers are having trouble attracting workers with expertise in e- records, according to a survey last year by Towers Watson, a consultant.
BLUE COLLAR BOUNCE
As manufacturing picks up, trucking companies are desperate for drivers. And not surprisingly, truckers are earning more. Hourly pay for transportation and warehouse workers was 4.4 percent higher than a year earlier in each of the past three months — a streak unmatched in over three decades.
Ryder Systems, which rents trucks, said in a call with financial analysts that it’s facing upward pressure on drivers’ wages. Many drivers retired or left the industry during the financial crisis when demand plunged.
"I definitely am making more money," said Darrell Beyer, 56, a driver from Kingman, Arizona.
So are workers at companies that make construction equipment. They earned an average 11 percent more an hour in the past year, according to the BLS.
Pay for non-managerial and production workers — who fill 80 percent of private non-farm jobs — is rising 2.3 percent annually. In previous recoveries, raises for these workers peaked at about 4 percent three or four years after they’d begun climbing. That raises at least the possibility that their pay will keep rising.
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