Analyzing Your Comp and Benefits Costs? Don’t Overlook This Free Data

Remember the good old days when 3 percent was a stingy raise? That looks pretty good now, in light of a government survey that puts the average hourly wage for service industry workers at $19.34; an increase of 8.5 percent over the last four years.

That’s but one of the data points from the National Compensation Survey conducted quarterly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The current data was collected in June. The next release is due the end of October.

The survey is one of the key tools used by compensation and benefits consultants when they assist employers in assessing their salary competitiveness in the market, and aligning their pay ranges. The data is both broad, and deep, detailing the average costs of wages and categories of benefits by industry, type of worker, geography, and size of employer. And it’s free.

Historical information in data tables

For instance, in June, the average benefits and salary for private sector information workers averaged $42.73 with $29.10 the average hourly wage and the balance coming from benefits. Break that down, though, and you’ll find that managers and IT professionals earn on average $37.72 an hour.

This particular set of data tables includes historical information going back to December 2006. Then, the average IT professional or manager earned an average wage of $33.69 an hour. Some quick math shows that hourly pay for the group rose 12 percent between the end of 2006 and the middle of this year.

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That’s invaluable information for HR analysts and recruiters, who can quickly see how it compares to what their company is offering.

Periodically, the BLS will send out press releases detailing one or another part of the survey, more as a reminder that the information is there and available for the taking. Earlier this week the bureau distributed a release noting that the employer cost of retirement and savings was $1.03 on average for all workers. For management, professional, and related occupations the average was $2.08 an hour; for service occupations, the lowest cost, employers paid 22 cents per hour worked.

In addition to specific dollars and cents, the Bureau also prepares indices for all the data, which you can use to quickly see how things have changed over time. These ready-made tables show quarterly changes going back for two years, as well as the cumulative change for the last five years. If those don’t fit the bill, you can also compile your own data.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


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