High unemployment usually means stagnant pay, since a huge supply of available workers allows companies to pay less for the talent they need. That in fact seems to be happening. Since 2007, when the recession began, average weekly earnings have risen just 6.6. percent. That's slightly better than inflation, but low by historical standards. And millions of unemployed people are drawing no paycheck at all, so their earnings have plummeted.
Some workers continue to thrive, however, and figuring out who they are reveals parts of the economy that remain vibrant. To determine where wages are rising the most, 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, yet in these fields, average pay increases ranged from 11.3 percent to 34.3 percent. That's a healthy segment of workers who are getting ahead, even after discounting for inflation. Here are 10 industries where pay has risen the most since 2007:
Marketing consultants. Average hourly pay: $36.23. Change since 2007: 34.3 percent.
That big boost in pay sounds like positive spin, but consultants are earning more because companies that laid off their own full-time staffers are now contracting out for the work. Those comfortable juggling multiple clients can benefit, but it's a comedown for reluctant consultants who would rather work for a single employer.
Package delivery. Average hourly pay: $19.05. Change since 2007: 27.5 percent.
Couriers like FedEx, UPS and R+L Carriers have benefited from strong corporate profits and the ever-broadening global economy. Hiring is up, and so is pay.
Internet publishing. Average hourly pay: $33.55 Change since 2007: 25.6 percent.
Google, Facebook, Twitter and hundreds of other booming Web-based business have made this one of the fastest-growing parts of the U.S. economy. Consider yourself lucky if you work in this industry.
Data processing/networking. Average hourly pay: $31.57. Change since 2007: 22 percent.
Corporate America is wired, and needs continual service and upgrades to keep its networks in tip-top shape. That means plenty of work for firms like EDS and Convergys and their employees.
Membership groups. Average hourly pay: $22.97. Change since 2007: 20.3 percent
Donations to some nonprofits have dipped, but pay has held up at charitable organizations, advocacy groups, and business associations. With change afoot in Washington, D.C., groups with a lobbying focus have intensified their activities.
Recycling and specialized waste disposal. Average hourly pay: $26.17. Change since 2007: 19 percent.
Run-of-the-mill garbage pickup isn't a growth industry, but recycling is. Ever-increasing environmental awareness is good for business at waste firms that specialize in cleanup or remediation.
Management. Average hourly pay: $32.76 Change since 2007: 17.4 percent.
Managers have survived the tumult of the last few years better than the rank and file at many firms. But that entails a lot more than clocking in from 9 to 5 these days. Companies are increasingly complex, requiring specialized skills and long hours for some managers.
Outpatient healthcare centers. Average hourly pay: $26.61. Change since 2007: 14.7 percent.
As everybody knows, a hospital stay can be outrageously expensive, which is why clinics and other outpatient facilities are increasingly popular—and there's strong demand for healthcare workers to staff them.
Hospitals. Average hourly pay: $27.23. Change since 2007: 12.2 percent.
Despite growing efforts to lower costs, hospitals should stay as busy as ever thanks to an aging population and the baby boomers' retirement years.
Traditional publishing. Average hourly pay: $33.20 Change since 2007: 11.3 percent.
It's paradoxical, but pay has ticked upward even as magazine, newspaper and book publishers have lost revenue and readers have migrated to digital media. With fewer workers, it's possible that raises have loosened up for those who are left.