NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Not All Workers Saw Salaries Rise In 1990s

February 1, 2000

Wages for workers in some occupations and professions escalated considerably in the past decade, while others simply kept up with inflation -- or trailed it. Those are the findings of an analysis of Labor Department data conducted by the economic consulting firm Dismal Science.

Out of the 129 common occupations tracked by Dismal Science, 24 saw wages decline after adjusting for inflation. Workers whose salaries rose less than the 22.3 percent pace of inflation between 1991 and 1999 lost ground.

  • People involved in the securities and financial services and sales sector really cleaned up, with average pay rising 153.6 percent, without adjusting for inflation.
  • Morticians, pharmacists, dentists, telecom installers, physicians, computer programmers and electrical engineers all saw increases over the period ranging from about 42 percent to nearly 63 percent.
  • Lawyers, reporters, computer engineers, plumbers, therapists, economists, registered nurses, secretaries, real estate brokers, auto mechanics, construction workers, fire fighters and police kept up with inflation -- experiencing average pay hikes of more than 22 percent to 38 percent.
  • Those failing to receive pay increases commensurate with inflation included building service workers, teachers, sales persons, entertainers and athletes, food service workers and cashiers -- all receiving average pay increases ranging from a little more than 13 percent to 20 percent.

Several occupations actually experienced real pay cuts -- including aircraft pilots, hotel desk clerks and religious professionals.

The wage data don't include bonuses, stock options or other cash incentives.

Source: Patrick Barta, "Rises in Many Salaries Barely Keep Pace With Inflation," Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2000.


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