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What's In Your Wallet?

June 21, 2004
Salary Increases Are on Hold, Job Security is a Major Concern, But Compensation Levels Remain Strong and Most Received Modest Raises this Year

How you doing? You all right? Keeping up with the mortgage, the car loans? Some of you are probably putting kids through college, or paying for braces, or both. Regardless, keeping a healthy cash flow is likely priority number one. Each year we take an X-ray of CONTROL Magazine reader's wallets to see how things are going in the money department and check the pulse of the process industry's compensation and benefit levels.

Judging by the responses to our 2004 Salary Survey, salaries are holding steady for most of you out there"meaning they aren't falling"but they haven't risen much either. Compared to last year, salaries for the typical (review your profile in the table below) rose only by a fraction of a percent. And about half of our respondents remain anxious, nervous that job security is truly a thing of the past. Several commented that the only thing keeping them from becoming an unemployment statistic was the health of next quarter's bottom line. A female hydraulic tool maintenance technician from Oregon voiced a common opinion. "I work for an excellent company, but job security is non-existent." A plant maintenance supervisor from West Virginia commented, "I have a major concern over lost engineering jobs. Our company is outsourcing engineering overseas." In spite of the anxiety, respondents continue to make a competitive wage with the "average" process control professional bringing in $79,428 annually. Independent salary data provider Salary.com confirms that CONTROL's responding readers are working up to their earning potential. According to the site's Salary Wizard report engine, the median expected salary for a typical electrical controls engineer grade III in Houston, Texas is approximately $83,000. Salary.com's reports are prepared using Certified Compensation Professionals' analysis of survey data collected from thousands of HR departments across major vertical markets. Considering the salary range delivered by the report, about $74,000-$94,000, and the specific geographic local, the internal health of  respondents' wallets are relatively healthy with compensation levels neither too fat nor to lean when compared to their peers or colleagues. But it's all a matter of perspective isn't it? Salaries in the process industries appear to have leveled off, and at a competitive level, but weighed against the trends of  lean staffing, tenuous job security, and salary and staff hiring freezes job satisfaction can be effected. A plant maintenance supervisor at a chemical processor in Pennsylvania offered his opinion: "I'm not complaining about my salary, but three years of wage and hiring freeze is hard to take." A production and plant operations engineer from Maine echoed similar angst: "Three years of salary freezes, yet my responsibilities have vastly increased."Anecdotal commentary aside, the harder data drawn from the survey paints a slightly more positive picture with majority of respondents receiving a competitive benefits package, modest raises and bonuses, and more than three weeks of vacation each year. So, how are you and your brothers and sisters fairing out there in the process industries? The following charts and graphs should offer you a bit more insight into the wage health of the industry and a good look into the wallets of your professional peers.Salaries have leveled off and reflect the holding pattern the economy has been in over the past two years. While the increase was the lowest percent increase in the survey's history, a majority of the respondents did receive raises and bonuses.

After steady, though even average salary gains year after year since the last recession, wage increases fell off to almost next to nothing for respondents after 9/11. Considering the uncertainty of the economy, the War on Terror and other circumstances it's not surprising. Will market forces keep wages at this level for the foreseeable future? Time will tell, but for now, survey responses reveal salaries are no longer climbing like they did when the economy was roaring in the 90s.

The folks at Salary.com offer an earnings benchmark that most of us can relate to; Big Macs per hour. How do you stack up?

Performance-based bonuses were a part of 58% of respondents total compensation this year. Did you get one?
Most respondents' compensation is bolstered by a full set of benefits. Noteworthy is the fact that about a third (33%) can take advantage of a flexible work schedule.

While it's not news Corporate managers tend to have higher salaries, those responding this year reported incomes $6,703 less than the figure reported in 2003.


Representing just 6% of our respondents, women remain a rarity in the process industries This year the average salary reported for this small group dropped by 7% from $63,833 to $59,560.


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