Though lagging wage growth has been the culprit in keeping the economy sluggish, the average base salary in cities with the most Inc. 500 companies has increased 10.2 percent, or 2 percent per year, since 2011, according to Korn Ferry Hay Group's PayNet database. The analysis includes 3.5 million jobholders from 1,234 organizations, ranging from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies. Given an 8.5 percent cost-of-living increase over that five-year period, it means real wages were up 2 percent for middle managers (green bar), 1.6 percent for juniors (blue), and 1.5 percent for lower-end employees (orange).

That apparent similarity is deceptive, says Korn Ferry Hay Group's director of operations, Jason Trull. When you consider the difference in actual dollars, the pay gap between senior and junior roles continues to widen. --Bill Saporito

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