Same Job, Different City, Different Pay

October 3, 2001( - A new survey sheds light on the challenges employers face when their employees are located across the country.

The survey, 2001 Metropolitan Benchmark Compensation Survey , conducted William M. Mercer includes detailed compensation data on 245 nonexempt jobs and lower-level exempt jobs.

Geographical Limits

The survey data were compiled for 158 different metropolitan areas nationwide. In general, the highest salaries for the jobs in Mercer’s survey are found in large cities in:

  • the northeast, including New York City and Boston, and
  • in California, including San Jose and San Francisco

In contrast, the lowest salaries tend to be found in cities across the southern US in states such as

  • Alabama,
  • Florida,
  • Tennessee, and
  • New Mexico


The position of Accountant II, which typically requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting and two to four years of experience, and for which the national average base pay is $41,100, reflects this pattern. Specifically:

  • in Mobile, Alabama, these employees are paid $34,700,
  • in Tampa Florida, they?re paid $35,800, and
  • in Miami they receive $37,000, while
  • in New York this position pays $45,000,
  • in San Francisco it pays $46,300, and
  • in San Jose, these accountants earn $49,900

For entry-level and lower-level jobs, the market for talent is local or regional, so it’s important for employers to understand local pay norms, trends, and practices. However, these location-specific pay differences tend to disappear at higher salary levels, where the market for talent is national.


The survey includes data provided by 103 organizations representing more than 20,000 employees in nine geographic areas throughout the US.