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White-collar pay in nonservice industries, March 1988.

White-collar workers employed in mining and utilities typically earn more, on average, than their counterparts in such industry sectors as construction, manufacturing, trade, and finance. This is one of many findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' March 1988 survey of whitecollar pay in private nonservice industries.' (See table I for examples of pay relationships in selected occupations and industry divisions covered.) The study, commonly referred to as the PATC survey, yielded average salary information for workers in 28 occupations (112 work levels) spanning a broad range of duties and responsibilities. The results, however, cannot be compared with those from last year's survey, which was limited to private service industries.

The March 1988 survey also reflects changes introduced in 1986 to broaden coverage of the white-collar pay survey to more industries and to smaller establishments by conducting the survey in two segments: The private service industries in 1987 and the private nonservice industries in 1988.3 The 1988 survey findings will be combined with updated information from the services establishments studied in 1987 to permit annual pay comparisons between Federal white-collar workers and their counterparts in private industry. Rotating industry coverage in alternate years allows BLS to obtain a broader scope of pay data within current budgetary limits.

While the type of business that a firm performs influences salaries to a large extent, skill and experience continue to be primary determinants of white-collar pay levels, as can be seen in table 2. Engineers, the survey's most populous occupational group, demonstrate the effect of rising skill levels on pay: recent engineering graduates (level I) averaged $29,592 annually in March 1988, while engineers responsible for highly complex engineering programs (level VIII) averaged $87,914. Likewise, salaries for accountants ranged from $22,198 for beginners (level 1) to $68,270 for those responsible for developing complex accounting systems (level VI).

In elerical and technical jobs, differing skill levels also contributed to wide variations in pay. Salaries for four levels of general clerks ranged from $11,150 a year for clerks who follow detailed procedures in performing simple and repetitive tasks (level I) to $20,642 for those who use knowledge and judgment to complete various nonroutine assignments (level IV). Pay for five levels of secretaries ranged from $17,577 to $30,823.

Computer operators are classified on the basis of responsibility for problem solving, variability of assignments, and scope of authority for corrective actions. Level I operators, whose work assignments consist of on-the- job training, averaged $15,039 a year. The largest group surveyed, level II, averaged $18,452; the highest publishable level (V) recorded $30,900.

Drafters averaged between $16,676 at level II (those who prepare simple, easily visualized drawings from sketches or marked-up prints) and $32,567 at level V (work closely with designers preparing unusual, complex, or original designs).

In contrast to contributing to wide variations in pay within a single profession, skill levels can also act as a source of pay uniformity for the same level of work among different occupations. The following tabulation shows a relatively narrow (8-percent) spread separated the highest and lowest paid of six equivalent work levels in the survey: Unequal market demands, however, can nullify equivalent skill level pay consistency, especially in entry level professional positions. Average pay for beginning engineers in the survey, for example, was well above that of entry level accountants.

A DETAILED ANALYSIS of white-collar salaries and complete results of this year's survey are forthcoming in the bulletin, National Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical,and Clerical Pay, March 1988. It will include salary distributions by occupational work level, tabulations by establishment size, and relative employment and salary levels by nonservice industry division, such as manufacturing, utilities, and trade.
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Author:Cooper, C. Joseph Jr.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1988
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