Special Report

Industries Where People Got the Biggest Raises

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

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