White collar salaries vary widely in the service industries

C. Joseph Cooper, Jr.

White-collar salaries vary widely in the service industries

Workers employed by firms providing engineering and research services typically earned more on average than their counterparts in other service industries in Marcy 1987. This finding is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ first nationwide white-collar pay survey of all private service industries. (See table 1 for examples of pay relationships in selected occupations and service industries.) Because previous BLS white-collar pay surveys covered other sectors of the economy, this year’s results cannot be directly compared with earlier survey data.1 The March 1987 study yielded average salary information for workers in 26 occupations and 93 work levels, spanning a broad range of duties and responsibilities.

The March 1987 survey reflects changes to broaden coverage of the white-collar pay survey to more industries, including health care services, and to smaller establishments.2 The service sector findings will be combined with updated information from establishments studied in 1986; the results will be used to make annual pay comparisons between Federal white-collar workers and their counterparts in private industry. Rotating industry coverage in different years allows BLS to obtain a broader scope of pay data within current budgetary limits.

In addition to the type of service that a firm performs, skill and experience also affect white-collar pay. (See table 2.) Among the professional jobs studied, salaries averaged $19,588 a year for beginning accountants and $26,355 for beginning engineers, while the averages for senior levels of both jobs (level V) were approximately $50,000. For top level engineers (VIII) surveyed, salaries averaged $78,049.(3) $In the clerical and technical areas, differing skill levels also contributed to the wide variations in pay. Salaries for four levels of general clerks ranged from $10,338 a year for clerks who follow detailed procedures in performing simple and repetitive tasks (level I) to $19,151 for those who use some knowledge and judgment to complete various nonroutine assignments (level IV). Pay for five levels of secretaries ranged from $15,285 to $29,014.

Computer operators are classified on the basis of responsibility for problem solving, variability of assignments, and scope of authority for corrective actions required by their equipment. Level I operators, whose work assignments consist of on-the-job training, averaged $14,067 a year. The largest group surveyed, level II, averaged $16,812; the highest publishable level (IV) averaged $24,673.

Drafters averaged between $12,450 at level I (trace or copy finished drawings) and $31,634 at level V (work closely with designers preparing unusual, complex, or original designs).

Statistically reliable data on pay were obtained for three jobs in the nursing field. One of these, registered nurse, was the most numerous of the professional and administrative jobs studied. Over 80 percent of the nurses were at level II, which designates those who exercise considerable independence in difficult nursing situations. They averaged $24,127 a year.

The other two jobs, nursing assistant and licensed practical nurse, are included among the survey’s technical support occupations, which include computer operator, drafter, engineering technician, and photographer. Nursing assistants numbering 441,000 had average salaries from $8,558 for level I to $14,369 for level III, the highest level for which pay data met Bureau publication standards. Of the three levels of licensed practical nurses, level II inclumbents accounted for most of the licensed practical nurses covered, and their salaries averaged $16,487 a year.

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 1987. It will include salary distributions by occupational work level, and relative employment and salary levels by major service industries for 26 occupations.

1 The white-collar survey (National Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Pay–PACT) 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. This reflects the use of PATC findings in the pay setting process for Federal employees. The role of the PATC survey is described in George L. Stelluto’s “Federal pay comparability: facts to temper the debate,’ Monthly Labor Review, June 1979, pp. 18-28.

2 See John D. Morton’s “BLS prepares to broaden scope of its white-collar pay survey,’ Monthly Labor Review, March 1987, pp. 3-7.

3 In the survey coding structure, the level designations among various occupations are not synonomous: for example, the first level of attorneys is comparable to the third level 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.

Table: 1. Average pay relatives by type of service and selected occupations, March 1987

Table: 2. Average salaries of professional, administrative, technical, and clerical workers in the service industries, by occupation and level, March 1987

COPYRIGHT 1987 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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