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Occupational salary levels for white-collar workers, 1984.

Average salaries increased at the lowest rates in more than 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' March 1984 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 the March 1983 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. (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, occupational 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 10 years have been largest for the higher levels (120.1 percent), and 8 to 9 percentage points more than for lower (111.1) and middle groups (112.1). In 1983-84, pay increases for the highest skill group also set the pace, averaging 5.3 percent, compared with 5.0 percent for the middle group and 3.6 percent for the lowest group.

A closer look at some individual job classifications reveals that the pay differential between many entry-level professionals and their experienced coworkers widened during the decade, as the latter generally recorded substantially larger salary increases. The following tabulation illustrates this point for 3 of 4 professional occupations. It shows average salaries for journeyman classification (GS-11 equivalents) as a percent of the average paid to their corresponding entry levels (GS-5). 1974 1984 Accountant 165 180 Auditor 169 190 Chemist 162 174 Engineer 151 149

It is noteworthy, however, that the pay relationship for engineers was essentially unchanged since 1974 because the strong demand for engineers had bolstered their starting salaries. This practice becomes evident when engineering salaries are compared with those of another technical profession--chemist. In 1984, 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). Ten years earlier, engineers 1 held a 12-percent pay advantage over chemicsts 1, while the differential was 4 percent at the journeyman level.

In 1984, the survey's highest salary average was for top-level (VI) corporate attorneys at $87,568 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 pay variations, although not as wide as for professionals. For example, annual pay averages for top-level secretaries (V) ($24,700) and purchasing assistants (III) ($26,916) were 2.5 times the average of clerks ($9,869) doing routine filing. In contrast, the typical spread among job categories with equivalent levels of work, for example, accountants I and accounting clerks IV, was relatively narrow. (See table 2.)

The Bureau recently added two computer science occupations to the survey--programmers in 1982 and systems analysts in 1984. Programmer/programmer analyst trainees (level 1) averaged $19,801 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 analysts I averaged $27,084 a year. This level includes workers who are familiar with systems analysis procedures and are working independently on routine problems. Systems analysts V, the highest level for which data could be presented, averaged $53,917 a year. At this level, analysts work as top technical specialists on extremely complex systems or are senior managers responsible for the development and maintenance of large and complex systems.
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Author:Prieser, Carl
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1984
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