Workers who make clothing did very well. So did bankers.
Miners and auto workers, not so much.
The Labor Department reported the biggest hourly pay increase in eight years in Friday’s jobs report — an average increase of 2.9% for private sector employees.
“The job market is very tight and getting tighter,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics. “Businesses are struggling to hire or hang onto people so they have no choice but to raise wages”
Part of that boost came at the low end of the pay scale, since an estimated 4.5 million minimum wage workers in 18 states got raises when their states boosted the minimum wage on Jan. 1.
But with 125.5 million people working across the country, the raises for those 4.5 million minimum wage workers didn’t move the needle very much.
Data from the Labor Department showed some wide disparity in who got wage increases and who did not.
“The wage increases are not being broadly shared,” said Heidi Shierholz, labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.
The job classification with the biggest annual percentage increase was clothing manufacturing. Wages jumped 14% on average according to the labor department data. That’s a very small sector with only 116,000 workers, most of whom make high end merchandise. That’s because the overwhelming majority of clothing sold in U.S. is imported from low wage countries, leaving behind only high-end clothing manufacturing.
“These are people who are very skilled. And I’m sure it’s very difficult to hold onto those workers,” said Zandi. He added that the industry also has a high percentage of foreign born workers.
“I’m sure the crackdown on immigration is having an impact in that sector,” he said, forcing manufacturers to pay their remaining workers even more.“This is only the beginning. It’s going to get a lot worse.”
The bankruptcy of American Apparel, which used to make more modestly-priced clothes at U.S. plants also help drive up the sector’s wages. Clothing manufacturing lost about 15,000 jobs in the last 18 months, and eliminating more modestly-paying jobs has the effect of raising the average wage significantly.
The second biggest wage increase was the 4.6% boost that workers who refine petroleum and coal products — another relatively small sector with 115,000 jobs.
The other group that got a significant wage hike were the 8.5 million people working in what the government classifies as “financial activities,” such as banking, Wall Street and insurance. They averaged a 4.2% raise.
Wages for the 16 million people who work in the leisure and hospitality industry, rose 3.3% on average. Most of those workers — about 11.9 million — work in restaurants, including fast food, and bars.
“If you’re going to see [the impact of higher minimum wages] anywhere, you’ll see it with restaurant workers,” said Zandi.
Mining and logging workers posted only a 0.3% increase, on average, despite all the attention that’s been focused on mining jobs. Zandi said the rural mining communities are among the few places where there is not a shortage of workers putting upward pressure on wages.
“If there’s any slack in the economy it’s there,” he said.
One sector where wages declined was auto plants and factories that make auto parts, where the average pay fell by 0.3%. Some of that could be do to an aging work force, since better-paid workers are retiring and being replaced by lower-paid new hires. Also helping todepress auto wages was series of layoffs at better paying unionized auto plants in Michigan and Ohio during the year, and growth at lower paying non-union auto plants in the South.