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Occupational salary levels for white-collar workers, 1985.

White-collar salaries increased moderately between March 1984 and March 1985, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' survey of pay for professional, administrative, technical, and clerical occupations in medium and large firms. Salary levels rose between 3 and 6 percent for most of the 25 occupations, compared with those in the March 1984 survey. In contrast, occupational salary increases averaged about 7 percent yearly during the 1970's and rose to more than 9 percent in 1981 and 1982 before starting to drop back in 1983. (See table 1.) The annual survey is used in the pay comparability process for Federal white-collar employees.

Although the survey focuses on individual occupations and work levels, it also permits a look at salary trends by skill level. In this connection, occuptional work levels were grouped into three broad categories of skill levels comparable to grades 1 to 4, 5 to 9, and 11 to 15, respectively, of the Federal Government's General Schedule (GS). (See table 2 for identification of the survey job classifications by GS grade.) Cumulative percentage increases over the past 5 years have been largest for the higher levels (45.4 percent)--5 to 6 percentage points more than for middle (40.8) and lower (39.4) groups. In 1984--85, pay increases for the highest skill group again set the pace, averaging 5.9 percent, compared with 4.2 percent for each of the other two groups.

A closer look at some individual job classifications reveals that the pay differential between entry-level professionals and their experienced coworkers widened during the first half of the 1980's, as the latter generally recorded substantially larger salary increases. The following tabulation illustrates this point for four professional occupations. It shows average salaries for journeyman classifications (GS-11 equivalents) as a percent of the average paid to their corresponding entry-levels (GS-5).

It is noteworthy that the journeyman to entry-level differential for engineers continues to be much smaller than for the other professions studied. To a great extent, this reflects the strong demand for engineers that has bolstered their starting salaries. For example, in 1985, the average salary for entry-level engineers was 21 percent higher than that for starting chemists, while at the journeyman level the difference was 4 percent (table 2).

In 1985, the survey's highest salary average was for top-level (VI) corporate attorneys at $91,690 a year; this was more than four times the average for most entry-level professional classifications studied. These extremes reflect the wide range of duties and responsibilities represented by all professional categories covered by the survey.

In the clerical area, differing functions and skill levels also produce wide variations, although not as wide as for professionals. For example, annual pay averages for top-level secretaries (V) ($26,210) and purchasing assistants (III) ($28,150) were 2.5 times the average of clerks ($10,101) doing routine filing.

In contrast to these types of comparisons, the typical spread among job categories with equivalent levels of work, was relatively narrow. See, for example, accountants I and accounting clerks IV in table 2.

The Bureau's most recent additions to the survey were two computer science occupations--programmers in 1982 and systems analysts in 1984. Programmer trainees (level I) averaged $20,318 a year; this was approximately half the average of level V workers who plan and direct large computer programming projects or solve unusually complex programming problems. Computer systems analaysts I averaged $28,197 a year. This level includes workers who are familiar with systems analysis procedures and are working independently on routine problems. Systems analysts VI averaged $68,809 a year. At this level, analysts are senior managers responsible for the development and maintenance of very large and complex systems.

A DETAILED ANALYSIS of white-collar salaries and complete results of this year's survey are contained in the National Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Pay, MArch 1985, BLS Bulletin 2243, August 1985. It includes salary distributions by occupational work level, and relative employment and salary levels by industry division for the 25 occupations studied.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Author:Prieser, Carl
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1985
Words:669
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