7 Industries With Plummeting Salaries

industries with plummeting incomesMiddle class wages, over all, have been pretty stagnant for over a decade. But not everyone's wages have stagnated. In fact, some people have seen their salaries rise at a rosy clip, while many others have actually become poorer.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has tracked average full-time income by industry since 1998, with the latest numbers from 2011. While the average income across industries (which includes employer-provided benefits) has increased by $5,700 in that period, workers in certain occupations have seen their pocketbooks shrink. Here are the seven industries that have seen their real incomes plummet the most (all dollar amounts are in 2011 dollars):

7. Lumber/Wood

Income in wood manufacturing has actually increased substantially over the 13-year time period. But those spoils have not been evenly shared. While computer-makers have seen their real incomes rise by $24,000 between 1998 and 2011, makers of wood products, like lumber, plywood, wood flooring, cabinets, and manufactured homes, have seen an average raise of just $12.50, from $39,201 in 1998 to $39,214 today.

Income (1998-2011): Up just $12.50.

More: 10 High-Paying Entry-Level Jobs

Why stagnant wages: Wood product manufacturing is closely tied to the construction industry, which is closely tied to how much money people have to build and renovate homes. Since the economy has been fairly weak since the early 2000s, and the housing bubble exploded into a bloody chasm in 2007, it makes sense that the wood makers of America didn't get rich in the last decade.

6. Movies and Music

Workers in the motion picture and sound recording industry are the highest-earners on this list, with an annual income of $74,201 in 2011. It's also an industry with a particularly large range of salaries, points out Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "I'm sure a lot of those jobs are not fancy Hollywood jobs," she said. "The camera crews, that's a lot of people."

Income drop (1998-2011): Down $26

Why stagnant wages: Predictably, wages dropped in the recession, but they also hit their highest on record in 2010, Average incomes in the industry jump around. One actress lands a $20 million job, or a blockbuster shoots the moon, and the whole thing seems to swing out of whack.

5. Retail

Retail workers don't make much anyway. In 1998, their average income in 2011 dollars was $33,913, but that factors in all the higher-earning managers.

More: 10 In-Demand Jobs That Pay Six Figures

Income drop (1998-2011): $1,311. "Other retail" (a separate category) saw an income drop of $950.

Why stagnant wages: According to Shierholz, this is because low-wage worker salaries are closely tied to the unemployment rate. "A low unemployment rate brings a lot more bargaining power to low-wage workers," Shierholz explains, and while the late '90s saw very low unemployment, the job market since then has been "weak, weak, weak, weak."

4. Food and Beverage

Food and beverage store workers are another low-wage category that's been squeezed in the last decade, with average income dropping from $28,152 in 1998 to $26,968 in 2011.

Income drop (1998-2011): $1,184

Why stagnant wages: "The economic growth at the time [the 2000s] has been funneled to a very small group of people," says Shierholz. "Most workers have seen flat wages." And low-wage workers, it seems, have seen worse than flat.

3. Car makers

Car manufacturers are still fairly well compensated, with an average income of $60,017 in 2011, but that's a solid slice less than what they were making in 1998.

Income drop (1998-2011): $2,757

Why stagnant wages: Car maker income began its slide in 2005, when analysts began commenting on the decline of the "Big Three" automakers -- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler -- due to foreign competition and bad business decisions. And in 2008, with the auto industry teetering towards bankruptcy, income saw its biggest drop.

2. Car Dealers

Dealers in cars and car parts have seen their average income wither from $54,595 a year in 1998 to $51,238 a year in 2011. A lot of that decline came between 1999 and 2001, when the country experienced a recession, and then again between 2007 and 2008.

Income drop (1998-2011): $3,357

More: America's Fastest Growing Job Pays Poorly

Why stagnant wages: "Sales really track the economy, because when the economy's not doing well, people put off buying cars," explains David Kiley, editor-in-chief of AOL Autos. "... Car dealer salaries are heavily influenced by commission, so when the industry was faltering you had those declines."

In fact, at the lowest point -- 2009 -- car dealers were taking home $5,317 less a year than they were in 1998. But things are on the upswing. "Luxury has been really strong, and the Big Three," says Kiley. "Not only are the wages, but the jobs. It's a good job market in auto retail."

1. Printing

Printing and related support activities, another manufacturing category, have seen the starkest drop in real income since 1998. Income reached a peak of $51,129 in 2000, but has been declining since then, falling to $46,481 in 2011.

Income drop (1998-2011): $3,911

Why stagnant wages: Not only was the printing industry particularly blindsided by the recession, says Ron Davis, chief economist and vice president of Printing Industries of America, but the rise of web has led to a major drop in the printing of newspapers, magazines, and books. "It's restructuring and refocusing," says Davis. "The traditional part of the industry isn't going away, but it's declined."

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Yes, the good old dependable Yellow Pages was used for advertising and so many people now use the internet and smart phones . It is even affecting the businesses that advertise especially if they do not have a huge internet presence. Local places are competeing with nationwide chains that have huge budgets even though many chain stores do not give the service a local store would. The Yellow Pages would rip their advertisers off anyway but I liked it better when there was no internet because more local people patronized our store, now instead of fishing in a small pond it is like casting a line in the Pacific Ocean and anybody even if not local can come up. Newcomers to a certain area of business can appear with a great web presence and look like they are great but have no experience and knowledge as an established local store.

April 26 2013 at 5:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I totally agree with the pick of car dealers. Dealerships are owned my greedy, paranoid people. They think the economy doesnt affect them and demand more, more, more. They push their sales people and especially the people in their service departments to shove unnecessary services down customers throats. Theres very little oversight in car dealerships and they can slash salaries and incease hours and theres nothing the labor board can do. They give you the "be lucky you have a job" line.

April 25 2013 at 11:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Welcome to the Obama Economy. Four more years of declining jobs and salaries. Only increases we'll see over the next four years are inflation, taxes and gas prices.

April 25 2013 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chrsclem4's comment

You don't think it has anything to do with outsourcing, technology, cheap imports, and the disparity gap between line workers and CEO's?

April 26 2013 at 1:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bennie's comment

Outsourcing is due to high taxes and costs associated with expensive regulations. My wife's daycare, for example now has to meet a new crib regulation which requires throwing out 20 cribs and replacing them with new ones at $200 each, so $4000. That immediately makes it difficult to pay the facility lease and meet staff payroll. That's just a tiny example. Look at any manufacturer, such as one for medical devices, now faced with Obamacare health costs, plus the absorption of the new medical device tax, plus the wide range of government regulations that require a variety of tests and inspections to meet ISO 2000, FDA, CE and other seals of approval (just to name a few), plus risk insurance, etc, and you can get a better idea how difficult it has become to meet a payroll, pay overhead and turn a profit. Once all those expenses are dished out, the only way to stay in business is through salary reductions or closing facilities and shifting jobs to another country. That option is exercised only as a last resort.

Does anyone really look at gas prices? The so-called greedy oil companies make about $0.09 profit per gallon, however state and federal skim ~$0.72 per gallon. So, who is really making out big? That's why we rarely hear politicians or the President talk about the mythical "greedy oil companies."

Wake up America!!

April 26 2013 at 6:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

Now the new POPE's against limos (instead he got on the bus full of Cardinals) that would hurt the limo industry and the buses services would boost then.

April 25 2013 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

you forgot to mention medicine. Doctors salaries have decreased approximately 10% a year for the last 10 years. It is only getting worse with the new cuts to reimbursements. The insurance companies are making all the money. Insurance Companies should not be profit centers.

April 25 2013 at 8:07 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Everything is pretty stagnant or plain low wage, there are exceptions to the rule, not many though.

April 25 2013 at 4:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Its Obama's fault. Gee its nice to be able to say that after his first four years of incompetance.

April 25 2013 at 2:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mooncop1's comment

Can you remember the mess he was left? Probably not.

April 25 2013 at 10:02 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Robert Hershman

It's all ODUMBER's fault. We are all Pawns as this self proclaimed king rounds up the masses. His will is to inflict as much pain on the people of the country, while lavishing himself at the tax payers expense. Transparency, this supposed Constitutional scholar has no clue what the word means. The only thing you can believe is that when he speaks he lies. The greatest car salesman the world has ever seen!

April 25 2013 at 2:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Robert Hershman's comment

You need help

April 26 2013 at 1:26 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

the main reason is us. We go to the store and buy imports so goodbye jobs hello unemployment basic supply and demand too many workers less wages .. the second is the goverment and illeagals who will work for less than we can. they have 6 or seven people in the same house or apartment so they can work for less. And the same too many workers less wages.

April 25 2013 at 1:45 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The middle class situation concerning wages is much worse than this article conveys.
The focus not only needs to be on average salaries. It also needs to focus on what the average middle class American worker is allowed to bring home in his or her paycheck these days after everybody gets done taking a bite out of it. The burden of payroll deductions that have increased dramatically in the last 20 years is also a huge factor that the article does not consider at all.
In my estimation, salaries and hourly wages have not moved upward significantly since the 1980's, which was about the time many major industries began shutting down and moving out of this country for more favorable manufacturing and wage climates elsewhere.
Today, and especially in the case of young people who are just getting started in life, net pay after federal and state income taxes, FICA, Medicare, and health insurance costs, (if even offered by the employer), doesn't leave much that can be considered expendable when today's cost of living is considered. Then there's the consideration of having to put something aside for retirement these days, since employer-sponsored pension programs are virtually non-existent for the middle class unless you are lucky enough to be in some job that still has a labor union, (like the automotive industry), but most do not any longer.
All that, yet wages haven't moved that much for the middle class in quite some time.
I feel that our economy depends on the average American having the ability and confidence to spend money, especially on big ticket items like automobiles or homes. However, and as the middle class way of life continues to be destroyed, money becomes tighter and confidence dwindles, which is probably why the automotive industry and auto sales continue to stagnate or decline as the article reflects.
Throughout this recession, not one significant thing has been done to bolster the confidence or spending ability of the average, middle class American, and more is being taken by employers and government in deductions than ever.
Unless that changes, we can expect more of the same for quite some time.

April 25 2013 at 12:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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