White-jacket brigade winning the wages race

To earn the biggest pay rise last year, chances are you wore a white coat to work and lived in Queensland.

The latest ranking of pay increases by job category sees the professional, scientific and technical services sector coming out on top - leaving mining jobs in the dust, it seems.

Science wonks notched up an increase of 4.7 per cent in wages last year, excluding bonuses, building on the 4.6 per cent rise they earned in 2010, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Miners, meanwhile, saw their salaries pick up 3.6 per cent in 2011, lower than the average increase of the wage price index of 3.7 per cent, if the nationwide statistics are any guide. Miners pocketed 4.6 per cent more in 2010 as the resources boom kicked up a gear.

Still, technical workers are probably riding on the coat-tails of the big miners, said ANZ senior economist Craig Michaels.

"I think that part of reason that sector is so strong is that a part of that sector is servicing the resource sector through management consulting or accounting services,” he said.

Paper pushers

At the other end of the wages scale are public administration workers. Their edged up 2.9 per cent last year, slowing from the 4 per cent rise in 2010.

The overall wage price index rose by estimate 3.7 per cent from a year earlier in original terms, ahead of the 3.4 per cent tipped by analysts.


By state, New South Wales wages rose 3.7 per cent - the same pace as Western Australia's, the ABS reported.

Those states outpaced Victoria, where wages increased by 3.5 per cent in raw terms over the year, with Tasmania and South Australia workers reporting similar gains.

Wages in Queensland led the way, increasing 4.6 per cent in 2011.

Mr Michaels said he was surprised by the strength in both manufacturing and finance sectors - both struggling industries.

Wages for manufacturing grew 3.7 per cent in 2011, down only slightly from 3.9 per cent in 2010, despite the strong dollar hammering exporters.

Financial and insurance job wages rose by 4 per cent in 2011, slowing from 4.4 per cent in 2010, but remaining robust in light of the slowdown in borrowing growth for the sector. ANZ Bank, Macquarie Bank and Westpac are among companies shedding staff this year as they adjust to poor demand.

"We'll probably see that strength ease of the next few quarters as labour market conditions remain weaker in those sectors," said Mr Michaels.