Pay Gaps Sizable Among US Labor Markets

December 19, 2002 ( - HR compensation officials at national companies have to contend with average market salary levels that can vary by more than 80% from market to market, a new study found.

According to the 2002 Metropolitan Benchmark Compensation (MBC) Survey , conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, for example, an executive secretary making $29,200 is in step with the Memphis market but way below those in comparable jobs in San Jose, California.   The average executive secretary base salary in San Jose is $53, 600 – 84% more than Memphis.  

In general, the highest salaries for the jobs in Mercer’s survey were in large Northeastern cities (including New York City and Boston) and in California (including San Francisco and Los Angeles).  

Meanwhile, the lowest salaries tend to be found in cities across the southern US in states such as Alabama, Florida, and Texas.

Difference in Accountant Pay

Factors such as the local labor market, demand for job skill, and composition of the talent pool play a role in determining which jobs are paid more within metropolitan areas, Mercer researchers said

The Mercer study also cited the example of an intermediate accountant, which typically requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting and two to four years of experience.

At $42,400 nationally, average base pay for the job is comparable to that for the executive secretary ($41,800).

However, in Chicago, an executive secretary is paid 2.2% more than an intermediate accountant ($45,700 vs. $44,700, respectively), while in Tampa, Florida, an executive secretary earns 10.9% less than an intermediate accountant ($39,500 vs. $43,800, respectively).

Some jobs studied are common to organizations in all industries, such as administrative, clerical, accounting, financial, human resources, communications, information technology, customer service, legal, and maintenance jobs.   Others jobs are specific to the health care, banking, insurance, manufacturing, and engineering industries

Nearly 1,300 mid-sized and large organizations, representing more than 25,500 locations and more than 722,000 employees, participated in the survey.   The survey data are compiled for nearly 150 different metropolitan areas.