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BLS white-collar pay survey now covers small firms.

BLS white-collar pay survey now covers small firms

Clerical workers and recent hires in professional and administrative positions typically are paid 10 to 20 percent more in large firms employing 2,500 workers or more than in small firms employing 50 to 999 workers. In contrast, the pay advantage for fully experienced professionals in these large firms is usually under 5 percent. (See table 1.)

The national survey of professional administrative, technical, and clerical pay (PATC survey) in 1986 increased its coverage of firms with as few as 50 workers. As a result of the expansion, 156,000 establishments employing 33.5 million workers were covered in 1986 (previously, the survey covered 47,000 establishments employing 23.3 million workers). Establishments in Alaska and Hawaii are excluded. The survey is conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but survey occupations and coverage, such as establishment size and the private industries to be included, are determined by the President's Pay Agent (the Secretary of Labor and the Directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management).1

In addition to the size of a firm's work force, skill and experience also influence white-collar pay, as can be readily seen from the survey results. (See table 2.) Engineers, the survey's most numerous occupational group, illustrate the effect of rising skill levels on pay: recent engineering graduates (level I) averaged $27,866 annually in March 1986, while engineers responsible for highly complex engineering programs (level VIII) averaged $79,021.(2)

In contrast, skill levels can act as a source of pay uniformity for the same level of work among different occupations. The following tabulation shows a relatively narrow (9 percent) spread separated the highest paid and lowest paid of six equivalent work levels in the survey:

Work levels & Annual salary level

Attorney IV $63,933

Director of personnel III 63,855

Chief accountant III 62,880

Accountant VI 61,546

Chemist VI 60,796

Engineer VI 58,883

Unequal market demands, however, can nullify this cluster effect. For example, average pay for beginning engineers in the survey was well above that of their accountant and chemist counterparts.

Although the PATC survey focuses on salary levels at a given time, its history permits a look at salary trends. White-collar salaries increased moderately between March 1985 and March 1986 in medium and large firms. Average salaries for most occupations surveyed rose between 3.0 and 5.5 percent--in line with gains reported a year earlier. In contrast, occupational salary increases averaged about 7 percent a year during the 1970's and more than 9 percent in 1981 and 1982. However, the rate of increase has been declining since 1982.(3)

A detailed analysis of white-collar salaries and complete results of this year's survey are included in the National Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Pay, March 1986, Bulletin 2271 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1986). The bulletin contains, for example, separate salary data by size of community and size of establishment.

1 The Pay Agent has designated the industrial coverage as follows:

mining; construction; manufacturing; transportation, communications, and public utilities; wholesale and retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and selected services. The pay-setting role of the PATC survey is described in George L. Stelluto's "Federal pay comparability: facts to temper the debate,' Monthly Labor Reivew, June 1979, pp. 18-28.

2 In the survey coding structure, the level designations among various occupations are not synonymous: for example, the first level of attorneys equates to the third levels of engineers, accountants, and most other professional and administrative occupations. Classification of employees in the occupations and work levels surveyed is based on factors detailed in definitions which are available upon request.

3 For a broader-based picture of wage and compensation trends in the United States, see the Employment Cost Index, a BLS quarterly news release.

Table: 1. Relative pay levels by size of establishment, selected white-collar occupations in the national survey of professional, administrative, technical, and clerical pay, March 1986

Table: 2. Average salaries for selected occupations, national survey of professional, administrative, technical, and clearical pay, March 1986
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Title Annotation:salaries
Author:Morton, John D.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1986
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