If you didn't get a raise in the past year, there's something wrong. Wages in Los Angeles County rose across the board in the last year, according to the third annual salary survey prepared for the Business Journal by the Economic Research Institute in Redmond, Wash.

None of the more than 100 occupations surveyed suffered a cut in pay, and more than 15 percent of the jobs got raises of 10 percent or more. Like last year, the highest-paid workers were those in the health care sector, but the biggest jump in wages was across a range of fields. Not all the news is rosy, however. The lowest-paying jobs hovered around the poverty level, and about 10 percent of the occupations received raises that failed to keep up with even the extremely low level of inflation that the nation enjoyed last year.

But taken as a whole, a local economy that continues to grow as jobless rates continue to fall translates into increased demand for workers and higher pay to lure them. "As long as unemployment is low and the labor market tight, it puts demand on employers," said Rajeev Dhawan, director of econometric forecasting at the UCLA Anderson Business Forecast. "If you drive down a street, it's hard to find any location that doesn't have a 'Help Wanted' sign," added Marv Dertien, an analyst at ERI.

The five highest-paid professions in L.A. are all in the medical field: neurosurgeons (with an average annual salary of $549,698), cardiologists ($285,501), hospital administrators ($262,678), orthodontists ($240,090), and psychiatrists ($219,394). But the biggest L.A. pay raises came in a variety of jobs: consultants (up 12.87 percent), hospital administrators (up 12.51 percent), computer software design managers (up 12.42 percent), securities brokers (up 12.34 percent) and pharmacists (up 11.98 percent). "Not surprisingly, it is people with higher education who seem to be the ones with the most growth in wages, pharmacists included," said Joseph Magaddino, economics professor at Cal State Long Beach. "It makes the most sense. The concern is about the people at the other end of the spectrum, without the educational skills."

Those occupations include the lowest paid in the survey: fast-food workers ($14,935), farm workers ($18,973), bank tellers ($19,343), retail sales clerks ($19,533) and garment sewers ($20,231). Moreover, several of these professions also were among those that saw the smallest increase in wages: garment sewers (up 0.23 percent), retail sales clerks (up 0.43 percent), secretaries (up 0.72 percent), bilingual secretaries (up 0.74 percent) and bank tellers (up 1.15 percent). Even with inflation low consumer prices rose only 2.2 percent last year, according to the Department of Commerce those raises weren't enough to keep up with the cost of living.


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