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U.S. Workers See Modest Wage Growth

By Daniel B. Kline - Oct 3, 2017 at 9:03AM

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Salaries are increasing, but by how much depends upon what you do.

A tight labor market with unemployment rates near historic lows has been good for workers in the United States. According to Glassdoor's Local Pay Reports, median base pay in the U.S. rose 1.8% in September to $54,491, a slight increase from 1.6% in August, but well off January's peak of 3.5%.

Rising wages are a positive, but Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain put the numbers in perspective in his remarks in a press release. "At this snail's pace of wage growth, it will take roughly 40 years for U.S. median annual pay to double," he said.

A couple in the checkout line of a store, with a smiling cashier

Retail workers remain in high demand heading into the holiday season. Image source: Getty Images.

Demand can vary

Of course, wage increases can vary greatly based on demand for and desirability of the job. For example, lower-paying healthcare jobs including pharmacy technicians (up 3.4% to $30,688), registered nurses (up 2% to $66,450) and certified nurse assistants (up 2% to $28,678) have posted above-average increases, while higher-paying jobs in the field have shown slower increases. Pharmacists, with a median salary of $127,506, have shown only a 0.4% increase, while physical therapists, at a median salary of $74,903, only increased by 0.7%.

The technology space has generally experienced high wage growth, but it's not uniform across the space. Positions such as solutions architects (up 3.7% to $102,184), web designers (up 3.4% to $51,767), and software engineers (up 2.7% to $85,806) posted above-average increases in September; others, including web developers (down 0.9% to $64,150) and Java developers (down 0.1% to $75,124) actually moved in the wrong direction for workers.

"The reports show that more sophisticated technology jobs like solutions architects and web designers are increasingly in demand because their mix of hard and soft skills allow them to navigate today's fast-changing tech landscape," Chamberlain said. "As the need for single-skilled developers like [J]ava developers and web developers has waned, so has wage growth for those positions."

Retail getting stronger

As seasonal hiring kicks in for retailers in advance of the holiday season, demand -- nearly 700,000 positions are open -- has pushed wages higher. That has been good for everyone from store managers (up 3.5% to $48,701) to cashiers (up 3.1% to $27,417), and even non-store jobs including truck drivers (up 5% to $52,280).

The chart below shows jobs with the fastest pay growth over the past year:


Job Title

Year-Over-Year Wage Growth (Sept. 2016 to Sept. 2017)

Median Base Pay






Truck driver








Bank teller




Restaurant cook




Solutions architect




Business development manager




Store manager




Pharmacy technician




Web designer



Jobs with the fastest pay growth. Data source: Glassdoor.

What does this mean for workers?

In the near term, the job market remains healthy, especially for less-skilled workers. The relatively tepid overall wage gains, however, show that in general, the employment market is a bit skittish.

Yes, there are certain very high-demand, highly skilled fields where wages will keep pushing up thanks to a lack of bodies. In retail, however, demand could prove short-lived depending on how the holiday season shakes out. It's not that retail jobs will go away, but a poor holiday season could lead to more store closings and companies getting even more cautious with hiring.

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