Special Report

Industries Where People Got the Biggest Raises

keni1 / iStock via Getty Images

A tight labor market has translated into raises for many American workers. A survey of 1,004 companies in the fall of last year by Willis Towers Watson revealed 32% have bumped up their wage hike projections for 2022 compared to earlier in the year. On average, companies estimate an overall average salary increase of 3.4% compared to 3% in 2021. In 2021, the average raise was 2.8%.

Yet workers in some industries fared better than the average recorded in the Willis Towers Watson survey. To determine the industries where workers got the biggest raises, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed industry-specific data on wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program. Industries were ranked based on the percentage change in real average annual wage from May 2020 to May 2021. 

For example, employees in the scientific research and development services business – the lowest on this list of 25 – had raises of 7.4% on average between May 2020 and May 2021. Workers in the petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry had a similar raise of 7.4%.

Workers in the deep sea, coastal, and Great Lakes water transportation industry saw the largest paycheck boost at 30% between 2020 and 2021. The industry carries cargo to and from foreign ports as well as ferrying passengers along waterways. The hike came at the same time as an 11.6% drop in its employee base. 

In fact, industries with some of the largest dips in employment registered some of the biggest wage gains. As employees were either laid off or quit during the pandemic, employers likely hiked salaries to keep current workers on the payroll or attract new workers to keep the business afloat.

Hit hard by COVID-19, the special food services industry lost more than 15% of its workforce. Those who stayed pocketed a near 11% salary increase. See the saddest restaurant closings of 2021.

Similarly, the pandemic thinned the ranks of event promoters by a third as fewer events were scheduled. Yet raises of more than 16% were given to the remaining event organizers. But was event planning the industry laying off the most workers?

Click here to see industries where people got the biggest raises
Click here to see our detailed methodology

Source: Motortion / iStock via Getty Images

25. Scientific research and development services
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +7.4%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $116,920
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +5.8%
> Total employment, 2021: 795,910

[in-text-ad]

Source: keni1 / iStock via Getty Images

24. Petroleum and coal products manufacturing
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +7.4%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $84,760
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -5.1%
> Total employment, 2021: 103,260

Source: BenAkiba / iStock via Getty Images

23. Office administrative services
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +7.4%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $74,120
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -2.4%
> Total employment, 2021: 486,170

Source: Lawrence Glass / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

22. School and employee bus transportation
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +7.6%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $42,160
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +4.8%
> Total employment, 2021: 178,190

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: halbergman / E+ via Getty Images

21. Restaurants and other eating places
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +7.7%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $29,670
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +4.6%
> Total employment, 2021: 9,431,910

20. General merchandise stores
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +8.1%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $33,130
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +3.0%
> Total employment, 2021: 3,084,830

[in-text-ad]

Source: welcomia / iStock via Getty Images

19. Automobile dealers
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +8.2%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $53,850
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +1.9%
> Total employment, 2021: 1,220,250

Source: StanRohrer / iStock via Getty Images

18. Grain and oilseed milling
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +8.5%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $57,610
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +1.9%
> Total employment, 2021: 62,980

Source: hxdyl / Getty Images

17. Pulp, paper, and paperboard mills
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +9.2%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $65,820
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -4.5%
> Total employment, 2021: 87,450

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: Kiwis / iStock via Getty Images

16. Special food services
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +10.9%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $36,250
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -15.1%
> Total employment, 2021: 473,810

Source: JoZtar / iStock via Getty Images

15. Alumina and aluminum production and processing
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +11.6%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $55,790
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -1.0%
> Total employment, 2021: 55,150

[in-text-ad]

Source: bojanstory / E+ via Getty Images

14. Offices of physicians
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +11.9%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $91,600
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +4.0%
> Total employment, 2021: 2,696,070

Source: dicus63 / iStock via Getty Images

13. Nonscheduled air transportation
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +12.3%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $92,090
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +6.2%
> Total employment, 2021: 48,610

Source: milehightraveler / iStock via Getty Images

12. Pipeline transportation of natural gas
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +12.3%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $86,590
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -2.3%
> Total employment, 2021: 30,200

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: andresr / E+ via Getty Images

11. Coal mining
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +14.3%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $72,330
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -14.9%
> Total employment, 2021: 36,740

Source: Matt Cardy / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

10. Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +16.3%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $54,460
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -31.9%
> Total employment, 2021: 77,670

[in-text-ad]

9. Independent artists, writers, and performers
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +17.6%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $84,180
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -6.6%
> Total employment, 2021: 45,210

Source: agrusoft / Flickr

8. Support activities for water transportation
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +18.5%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $73,340
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +2.2%
> Total employment, 2021: 89,860

Source: InfinitumProdux / iStock via Getty Images

7. Inland water transportation
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +19.3%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $82,420
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +3.1%
> Total employment, 2021: 25,500

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: kodda / iStock via Getty Images

6. Pipeline transportation of crude oil
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +19.7%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $96,860
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -5.1%
> Total employment, 2021: 11,470

Source: dramalens / iStock via Getty Images

5. Agents and managers for artists, athletes, entertainers, and other public figures
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +19.8%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $96,030
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -18.7%
> Total employment, 2021: 23,500

[in-text-ad]

Source: Serghei Starus / iStock via Getty Images

4. Household appliance manufacturing
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +19.8%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $57,680
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +8.8%
> Total employment, 2021: 64,980

Source: gorodenkoff / iStock via Getty Images

3. Motion picture and video industries
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +21.0%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $85,860
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -4.3%
> Total employment, 2021: 315,390

2. Spectator sports
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +22.1%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $62,190
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: +4.0%
> Total employment, 2021: 114,140

[in-text-ad-2]

Source: valio84sl / Getty Images

1. Deep sea, coastal, and great lakes water transportation
> Wage increase, 2020 to 2021: +30.0%
> Average annual wage, 2021: $83,320
> Employment change, 2020 to 2021: -11.6%
> Total employment, 2021: 32,310

Methodology

To determine the industries where workers got the biggest raises, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed industry-specific data on wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program. Industries were ranked based on the percentage change in real average annual wage from May 2020 to May 2021. 

Industries were classified at the fourth level of detail in the North American Industry Classification System code. Data on total employment also came from the BLS OEWS. Industries classified as “other” in a specific industry were not considered.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.