The PayScale Index Highlights Improving Economic Conditions Across Industries and Metropolitan Areas

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The Q4 2011 PayScale Index shows wages recovering across the board in the country’s largest metros while construction and manufacturing wages are on the rise as well.

PayScale, Inc. today announced The PayScale Index for Q4 2011, which tracks quarterly trends in compensation. Specifically, The PayScale Index follows changes in total cash compensation for full-time, private industry employees in the United States. In addition to a US national index, it includes separate indices for the following:

  •     15 private industries as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
  •     20 largest metropolitan areas, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget (based on the July 1, 2009 population estimates by the United States Census Bureau).
  •     3 company sizes: small (under 100 employees), medium (between 100 and 1,500 employees) and large (greater than 1,500 employees).
  •     19 job categories, as defined, in part, by the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system.

Similar to Q3 2011, jobs related to energy or technology, particularly highly skilled ones, continue to see the most wage growth over the last 12 months. With oil and gas prices remaining high, workers in the mining, oil and gas exploration and utilities industries and in cities strong in these industries (like Houston) are seeing substantial market price increases. Additionally, high-tech jobs, in science & biotech and IT, remain strong, particularly for skilled engineering and similar jobs. Technology hubs like Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, DC experienced solid wage growth over the last year.

Unlike previous quarters, the Q4 2011 PayScale Index had no real wage losers other than Riverside, Calif. In previous quarters, the losers in terms of pay growth were often construction workers, but for the first time since Q3 2009, they experienced positive annual trends in pay – a growth of 0.4 percent over the previous year. However, Riverside, which suffered significantly when the housing bubble burst, has not yet recovered from the economic decline, both in real estate and home construction.

“For the first time since 2008, wage increases are being seen across the board and not just for workers in high-tech and energy industries. Granted, these increases are small compared to those seen pre-2008, but they are a sign that the economy is on the right track,” said Katie Bardaro, director of analytics at PayScale.

The Q4 2011 PayScale Index highlights include:

  •     Lower-wage jobs continue to be under substantial pressure in multiple industries.

o    These lower-wage jobs are often tied to industries based on discretionary spending like travel, restaurants, and retail.
o    Food service and restaurant workers are earning pay below their 2006 levels.
o    Retail workers (dominated by retail salespeople, cashiers, and similar) have wages that are only 2 percent higher than in 2006 (for comparison, engineering wages are over 7 percent higher than in 2006); retail wages have generally been flat since Q1 2010.

  •     Q4 2011 brought about improved wage trends for previously hurting industries and job families.

o    Wages for construction jobs, which have been in a free fall since Q4 2008, experienced their largest quarterly growth since The Great Recession with wages growing over 1 percent from Q3 to Q4 of 2011.
o    Wages for manufacturing jobs also experienced their largest quarterly growth in Q4, as wages grew over 1.5 percent from Q3.
o    Transportation jobs have experienced strong wage growth over the last year – wages are up over 2 percent from 2010.

Adds Bardaro: “Although construction and manufacturing jobs have far to go before they are back to their pre-recession wage levels, workers in these jobs can take comfort in the fact that wages finally appear to be heading in the right direction. Since wage increases are largely driven by a higher demand for labor, workers in these fields will likely experience an increase in job opportunities over the coming year.”

About The PayScale Index
The PayScale Index utilizes a unique approach to trend measurement. Unlike indices such as the Consumer Price Index, which measures the prices of certain goods and services (periodically updated to reflect changes in buying habits of Americans), The PayScale Index uses data on all private-sector, full-time employees working in a given time period.

PayScale has performed a detailed analysis of how various compensable factors, like work experience, education, employment setting and job responsibilities affect pay. This analysis is based on PayScale's extensive data of more than 30 million employee profiles, accounting for 250 compensable factors for more than 11,000 unique job titles, which show how the pay of actual workers varies with each of these factors.

The PayScale Index also examines quarterly changes in the pay of employed workers across 15 private industry categories separately, 20 metropolitan areas, 19 job categories, and across company sizes of less than 100 employees, 100-1,500 employees, and more than 1,500 employees.

About PayScale ( is the leading online provider of employee compensation data. With the world's largest database of individual compensation profiles, PayScale provides an immediate and precise snapshot of current market salaries to employees and employers. PayScale's patent-pending, real-time profiling technology collects and indexes employee pay attributes worldwide and makes this compensation data available through its online salary tools and salary benchmarking reports. PayScale was founded in 2002 and is headquartered in Seattle, Wash. For more information, visit:

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