Most workers keep pace While an overall average salary increase wasn't available for the 100 occupations surveyed, the median increase the point at which half the salary increases are above and half below was 6.36 percent, or more than enough to offset the impact of inflation for most workers. "If inflation is running close to 2.5 or 3 percent, and you're making 5 percent more than last year, then clearly you're doing all right," said UCLA's Dhawan. "But there's definitely some areas that didn't keep up with inflation." One area in which inflation is of little concern when it comes to compensation is the technology sector. Fueled by the astonishing growth of the Internet, high-tech jobs are in great demand, as evidenced not only by the salaries, but also by the year-on-year increases. Computer software designers saw their average annual salary jump 12.34 percent to $111,916, systems analysis directors got an 8.1 percent boost to $120,192, computer webmasters got a raise of 9.03 percent to $75,589, and computer programmers saw their salaries rise 11.82 percent to $56,585. "(High tech) is the hot segment of the market right now," Magaddino said. Those wages are even more impressive when the issue of equity is factored in. Many high-tech workers are compensated with stock options in addition to salary, even in the wake of last spring's roiling of prices in technology stocks. So those occupations (and others, particularly chief financial officers) likely enjoyed even greater increases in personal wealth than the survey shows. "Equity has become such a huge piece of compensation in the last two years," said Caroline W. Nahas, managing director for the Southern California operations of executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. "I would submit that hospital administrators may be higher (in salary), but I doubt they have as many equity opportunities as others."

The moving factor

She points out that certain salaries have risen dramatically because of the increased tendency of workers to move from one company to another if given a better offer, the corollary to which is that retaining someone who looks to be jumping ship drives up wages as well. High-tech companies growing at tremendous rates of speed can't always afford to spend the time looking for someone more qualified, so they pay wages they would never dream of paying in a less-robust economy.

"The retention issue is causing people to raise compensation that's a little bit more of an artificial raise," Nahas said. The spring tech sell-off has contributed to an easing of this, but the floor has been raised so high over the past couple of years that wages will continue to be impressive, she added.

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