Airline pilots received the sharpest pay rises since 2010; dentists, the smallest. See if your job is on the list.

Lawyers still earn about five times as much as bartenders and fast food workers.

But over the past decade, those low-paying occupations in the hospitality industry have closed the gap somewhat, a new analysis shows.

Airline pilots, dancers and software developers achieved the largest average pay increases, by percentage, from 2010 through May 2021, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Clarify Capital, a small business lender, provided exclusively to USA TODAY.

Dentists, actors and architects made the smallest profits.

Overall, the average annual salary in the US has increased by 31.2% over the past decade, the study shows, but after adjusting for inflation, average wages fell by 4.5%. Only about one-fifth of occupations have kept pace with consumer price increases over the 10-year period.

“The labor market has not kept up with inflation,” said Nishank Khanna, chief marketing officer of Clarify Capital.

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Even in the last two years, as the country emerged from the pandemic, average wages rose by more than 5% a year, but until recently lagged inflation, which peaked at 9.1% last June.

The five professions with the strongest wage increases in the past decade:


Average pay raise: 71.9%

Average inflation-adjusted increase: 25.1%

Average salary: $198,190

There was a shortage of pilots after many retired or took buyouts early in the pandemic, Khanna says.


The average inflation-adjusted wage increase for dancers over the past decade has been 25.1%.

Average pay raise: 48%

Average inflation-adjusted increase: 7.7%

Average salary: $50,939

Software developer

Average pay raise: 46.4%

Average salary: $120,990

Average inflation-adjusted increase: 6.5%

Demand for software developers has exploded along with sales of digital products and services, especially since COVID.

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Average pay rise: 44.3%

Average inflation-adjusted increase: 5%

Average salary: $31,795

Farms are facing labor shortages due to stricter immigration laws and declining interest in the field.


Average pay rise: 42.4%

Average inflation-adjusted increase: 5%

Average salary: $31,795

Restaurants and bars are struggling to hire bartenders, servers and other staff as many left the industry during the health crisis. Fast food workers and servers rank close behind bartenders, with average pay increases of 40% and 39.5%, respectively. Khanna also partially credits the Fight for $15 campaign, a group of fast food workers and union officials who staged strikes for higher wages.

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Occupations with the most modest pay increases:


Average pay raise: 5.3%

Average inflation-adjusted change: -23.4%

Average salary: $167,160

This is surprising considering that the cost of the typical dental school has increased from $131,736 to $210,625 over the past decade, says Khanna.


Average pay rise: 10.1%

Average inflation-adjusted change: -19.9%

Average salary: $65,125


Average pay rise: 13.8%

Average inflation-adjusted change: -17.1%

Average salary: $89,400

The field was rocked by the mid-2000s housing crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-2009, as well as the early days of the pandemic.


Average pay rise: 14.4%

Average inflation-adjusted change: -16.8%

Average salary: $148,080

An oversupply of law graduates in many areas meant that many struggled to find jobs, while established lawyers were under pressure to keep their fees low, Khanna says. Technological advances have also made some legal services more efficient and less expensive, he says.


Average pay rise: 13.8%

Average inflation-adjusted change: -16.4%

Average salary: $125,690

One possible explanation is the proliferation of technology to fill prescriptions, which has allowed pharmacists to spend less time on routine tasks, such as counting pills and labeling bottles, Khanna says. That has led to fewer job opportunities and less upward pressure on wages, he says.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Occupations with the lowest, highest salary increases in the past decade






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