The Good News: You're Earning More than Last Year

salaryDoes it actually feel like you're making more than you did this time last year? Because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you are. The median weekly earnings of the nation's 98.7 million full-time wage and salary workers were $748 in the fourth quarter of 2009, which was 2.7 percent higher than a year earlier. Do the math, and that means you could be taking home close to an extra $20.00 per week.

Yes, but what about inflation, you may ask. The Consumer Price Index only rose 1.4 percent, so you're still ahead of the game...a little. That's according to the recently released Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers Fourth Quarter 2009 report. The numbers state that wages are up across the board, but they're definitely affected by gender, education level and occupation, among other factors.

Professional Men with Advanced Degrees Still Do Best

If you break it down by occupational groups, it seems that men employed full time in management, professional, and related occupations have the highest median weekly earnings-$1,227 for men and $909 for women. Those employed in service jobs earned the least, at $482 per week. When you look at it by gender, that's $566 for men, and $418 for women--both frighteningly large disparities.

Taking educational levels into consideration, it's still the 25-and-older male college graduates with advanced degrees (professional or master's degree and above) that earn the most, averaging $3,342 or more per week. Their female counterparts averaged $2,156. Men with Bachelors degrees average $1,896, and women with the same amount of education average $1,384. As expected, those workers 25-and-up without high school diplomas earned the least, with men averaging $686 per week, and women who never graduated high school averaging $477.

The higher wage earned by those with higher educations come as no surprise, of course, but the gender differences, in this day and age, still come as a bit of a shock. And, brace yourself: There are still substantial disparities between races in the US. See: Which Race Earns Most in US? The Numbers May Surprise You.

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