After a slow start to 2018 on the pay-raise front, workers in the United States are starting to benefit from the strong economy: Wages across all jobs climbed by 2.2% year over year in July, according to data provided by Glassdoor.

"[This] is the fastest wage growth we've seen in more than a year," said Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain in an email. "As employers raise wages to hire amid low unemployment across the country, it's a pace I don't expect to slow down anytime soon."

The average U.S. salary rose to $52,267 per year. July's increase was the highest wage hike in 14 months.

A person checks out at a retail store.

Retail workers have seen some of the best wage increases recently. Image source: Getty Images.

Not all jobs are rising equally

Even in a strong economy, there will be winners and losers based on shifting demand. What's clear at this point is that a shrinking supply of workers has impelled employers to offer higher wages in the traditionally low-paying retail sector. These are the jobs which saw the biggest monthly increases:

  • Bank teller: up 8.2% ($30,997)
  • Truck driver: up 6.3% ($54,205)
  • Bartender: up 6.1% ($34,128)
  • Property manager: up 6% ($51,948)
  • Cashier: up 5.4% ($28,145)

As you can see, four of those five jobs are still paying less than the average U.S. salary. Effectively, in a tight labor market where employees have choices, they've been looking for better options, and businesses have had to make their offers more competitive. The situation for the one group on the list that is averaging marginally above average -- truck drivers -- is similar, but the the upward pressure on their wages is compounded by a large and growing shortage of qualified drivers.

The list of five job categories that experienced the steepest wage decreases, by contrast, includes a trio of positions with relatively high wages, and a pair (insurance agent and loan officer) that have seen significant numbers of jobs eliminated due to automation.

  • Network engineer: down 4.5% ($66,280)
  • Physical therapist: down 1.9% ($72,182)
  • Web designer: down 1.1% ($72,182)
  • Insurance agent: down 0.8% ($41,352)
  • Loan officer: down 0.5% ($44,675)

"Rising wages are good news for many workers this month, but especially those in the retail industry," said Chamberlain. "Despite weak hiring, Glassdoor data shows retail jobs experienced pay gains above the national average, likely caused by the increasing demand for workers who specialize in customer service and integrate more technical knowledge."

Consider all factors

The healthy July numbers followed a similarly June result. Workers, however, should not make long-term career decisions based on short-term data. Yes, retail wages are rising, but large numbers of jobs in that area are at high risk of eventually being automated. The same could end up being true of truck drivers as well -- though it will likely take longer for the public to accept driverless trucks than it did for people to adapt to cashier-free checkouts.

So when considering a career, or contemplating a career switch, look at the long term. Ask yourself whether there's a reason to believe demand will keep rising for workers in that field, or whether its manpower needs -- and the wage increases they create -- will drop off if the economy weakens. If you can, try to pick a field that has shown historic strength and ongoing demand, rather than one that happens to have outsize salary growth at the moment.

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