A model salesman.

Photographer: Dominique Charriau/Getty Images for Y-3

Somebody Got a Good Raise. Probably Not You.

Mark Whitehouse writes editorials on global economics and finance for Bloomberg View. He covered economics for the Wall Street Journal and served as deputy bureau chief in London. He was previously the founding managing editor of Vedomosti, a Russian-language business daily.
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The long, slow U.S. economic recovery might finally be translating into better compensation for workers. People who make stuff or pull it out of the ground, though, aren't seeing quite the same kinds of raises as those in sales, management and finance.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offered a bit of good news last week in its latest Employment Cost Index, which tracks wages and benefits for a range of specific occupations. In the first three months of 2015, total compensation for private-sector workers was up 2.8 percent from a year earlier. That's the strongest growth since the economy hit bottom in 2009, albeit still well below the pre-recession average of 3.4 percent.

QuickTake Income Inequality

The aggregate figure, though, doesn't necessarily describe the experience of the majority of workers. Certain occupations did very well: People in sales -- a category that includes everything from cashiers to models -- saw a 4.9 percent raise, accounting for almost a quarter of the total growth in compensation. Management and finance also excelled. Meanwhile, about two-thirds of workers saw an average raise of less than 2.3 percent. The laggards included production, construction, extraction and farming. Here's a breakdown:

All told, the raises don't resemble the kind of widespread phenomenon that should make the Federal Reserve worry too much about inflation. A lot of people would need to see a much faster pace of compensation growth to even get back to normal, let alone start buying enough to push up consumer prices.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Mark Whitehouse at mwhitehouse1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net