10 Fields Where Workers Are Falling Behind

In these stagnating industries, pay is failing to keep up with inflation

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Jobs are finally starting to return—but raises, for many, aren't. Since 2007, overall pay has risen by 6.6 percent, according to government figures. That's slightly better than inflation. But in many fields, especially those that endured a lot of layoffs during the recession, pay is flat or even falling. And that's for people lucky enough to have a paycheck. Many others, of course, are still out of work.

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To determine where wages are most depressed, I analyzed data from the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics to gauge the change in average hourly pay between 2007 and 2010 in about 70 industries. Inflation over that time ran about 5.2 percent, and in all 10 of these fields, the change in pay was lower than that. So the average worker in these beleaguered industries is falling behind, compared to inflation. This list also provides a glimpse into ways labor markets and job opportunities are changing as the economy recovers. Here are 10 industries where pay has risen the least, or fallen, since 2007:

Airlines. Average hourly pay: $26.55. Change since 2007: -4.2 percent.

Airline consolidation and a tough economy have reduced payrolls and cut into pay. Plus, some unions have made pay concessions to help struggling carriers survive.

Water transportation. Average hourly pay: $24.07. Change since 2007: -3.8 percent.

This industry consists largely of cargo companies whose shipments declined during the global recession. Plus, many shippers are based overseas, which drives down pay for the whole industry.

[See why jobs are rebounding but pay isn't.]

Business support services. Average hourly pay: $17.10. Change since 2007: -2.5 percent.

Companies are hiring more clerical, administrative, and support staff, but these tend to be low-skilled or entry-level jobs where there's an overabundance of candidates. That drives down pay.

Waste collection. Average hourly pay: $19.30. Change since 2007: -0.4 percent.

Pressure to lower costs in many towns and cities is taking its toll on garbage collectors, who sometimes work for private companies contracted to municipalities and have fewer wage protections than government workers have.

Computer systems design. Average hourly pay: $40.16. Change since 2007: 1.2 percent

This industry requires sophisticated skills and has high average pay, but companies are increasingly offshoring even this vital function.

Hotels. Average hourly pay: $15.19. Change since 2007: 1.9 percent.

The whole travel industry got hammered during the recession, as businesses and consumers alike slashed their travel budgets. Hotels are starting to hire back some workers, but pay may not rebound for awhile.

[See why the middle-aged are missing out on new jobs.]

Bank lending. Average hourly pay: $24.27. Change since 2007: 2.1 percent.

Not all bankers earn lavish bonuses. A sharp decline in lending and contraction in the financial sector has depressed pay throughout the industry.

Telecommunications. Average hourly pay: $29. Change since 2007: 2.2 percent.

Cellular service is booming, but landlines are a dying business. The transition is holding down pay.

Dentist offices. Average hourly pay: $28.29. Change since 2007: 2.4 percent.

Overall efforts to lower healthcare costs seem to be dimming the smile on dentists' faces. Plus, consumers tend to put off cosmetic work and other nonessential dental work when money gets scarce, as it has been.

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Retail. Average hourly pay: $15.56. Change since 2007: 2.8 percent.

Some stores are hiring again, but consumer spending on merchandise is still below pre-recession levels, when adjusted for inflation. And with more people buying online, the retail sector may continue a gradual decline.

Twitter: @rickjnewman