Top executives of local publicly traded companies had a rewarding year financially in 2004, according to The Post's annual review of their companies' public filings. But local chiropractors, tree-trimmers and detectives also had big wage gains, according to government data.

The Labor Department collects data on wages for more than 700 different occupations, which revealed that in the Washington area, the median wage for all local workers rose 4.3 percent from May 2003 to May 2004, a healthy pace. The semiannual survey is based on 200,000 employers nationwide. The smaller local sample also provides details about occupations that have been big winners and losers, although those numbers are subject to statistical variation.

According to the data, the median salary of Washington area chiropractors increased by 167 percent, arbitrators and mediators by 93.5 percent, and tree trimmers and pruners by 55.1 percent. Other big gainers were graduate teaching assistants (51 percent), detectives and criminal investigators (36 percent) and medical appliance technicians (35 percent).

Perhaps reflecting the rise of digital photography, photographic process workers' wages fell 36 percent. Similarly, the widespread use of electronic phone directories could explain why telephone operators' wages dipped 35.8 percent. Worst off, however, were state and local legislators, whose median wages fell 45.8 percent to $13,500, for reasons not explained. Positions in state legislatures and county commissions tend to be part-time work. And many of those holding the jobs are lawyers, whose wages rose 6.3 percent.

-- Neil Irwin