Fewer New Jobs, Except in IT The job market is weaker than last year, but information technology is a bright spot.

Posted: July 02, 2006

Last summer, Krupa Patel, an information-technology specialist who graduated from Gwynedd-Mercy College in 2002, noticed something about her former classmates.

Her fellow IT graduates were starting to land jobs in the field, after doing low-paid time behind the counters of the area's shopping malls.

The pickup in IT hiring is the brightest spot in what appears to be a softening labor market, according to a salary survey conducted by the MidAtlantic Employers' Association, a group of 700 small and midsize privately held companies in the city, its Pennsylvania and New Jersey suburbs, Delaware, and the Lehigh Valley.

"The employment market isn't what it was in this region last year," said Edwin W. Koc, director of research and legislative affairs, who has conducted the survey since the mid-1990s.

MidAtlantic's numbers are current as of mid-April. Its pool of companies primarily reflects the area's manufacturing heritage.

Numbers of jobs decreased in three of five categories, and wage growth slowed in four of the five in the survey released Friday.

U.S. Labor Department statistics made public Friday also reflect nearly flat job creation in the region. From May 2005 to May 2006, the number of new jobs increased 1.2 percent. A year earlier, the number had increased 1.3 percent.

"Last year, we saw stronger demand across the board," Koc said. "This year, I don't see that strong demand."

But different surveys show different results.

Monster.com produces a monthly report based on its job-board listings. In Philadelphia, a Monster index rose steadily from May 2005 until February and has been flat since then.

Monster.com's report shows a strong trend in information-technology hiring, just as MidAtlantic's does.

Of the five job categories detailed in MidAtlantic's survey, only IT saw increased raises.

As a group, for example, office workers - a category that includes accountants and mail-room clerks - snagged average raises of 2.9 percent. In 2005, their pay went up 3.7 percent.

The Consumer Price Index, a widely used cost-of-living benchmark, rose 4 percent from April 2005 to April 2006, the period covered by the MidAtlantic survey.

"In general, the story of wages since 2001 is that they are flat, and they are flat for everyone except the CEO and his friends," said Stephen Herzenberg, an economist with the Keystone Research Center, a labor-oriented policy development institute in Harrisburg.

"Profits are up, CEO salaries are up, but no one else has gained a lot from the recovery," Herzenberg said.

Actually, chief executive officers' salaries and bonuses aren't up, Equilar Inc. found in an analysis of local publicly traded firms it compiled for The Inquirer.

They are down slightly, from $1.5 million in 2004 to $1.4 million last year. But salaries and bonuses are not the main way many CEOs are paid. Much of their compensation comes through profits from the sale of stock options.

Adding in those profits, local chief executives' compensation rose 33 percent, from $3.6 million in 2004 to $4.8 million last year, the Equilar analysis showed.

If other surveys measure executive compensation or track national trends at big companies such as Aramark Corp. or Comcast Corp., MidAtlantic's survey measures ordinary jobs at the type of small and midsize companies that tend to employ most of the region's workers.

The survey records employment and wage trends for 800 jobs as diverse as billing clerk, engineer, plant supervisor, and help-desk coordinator, like Patel, 26, of Hatfield, whose responsibilities include Web design and software consulting.

When Patel began college in 1998, the future of information technology looked bright, so she switched majors from business to computers.

Then the dot-com bubble burst, and instead of weighing generous offers as her older college friends had, she was scrambling to get temporary work as a data clerk. By hustling, she got a permanent job with Compliance Management International in Montgomeryville.

She was luckier than her friends.

"They were working retail positions at the mall and they had the same degree I did," she said. "Then, about a year ago, they started finding temporary positions, or temp-to-hire - IT-related positions - and the clients started hiring them."

That's exactly what Koc has seen.

"In the late 1990s, this group led the pack," he said. "We got to 2000, when everyone was worried that the computers would go down," as dates rolled over from "99" to "00."

"When the date passed, the IT bubble burst," Koc said. "Since 2000, it's been nothing but Death Valley. This year is the first year it turned around."

Other types of jobs have not fared as well.

The number of manufacturing and distribution jobs rose 1.6 percent, but wages barely budged, up just 0.5 percent.

Manufacturing-job prospects "haven't been that good for years, and they still aren't good," Koc said.

Even as traditional manufacturing jobs decline, jobs in distribution and warehousing have grown 17 percent, Koc said.

"Global competition may be hurting our manufacturing, but it is doing the opposite for the area's distribution companies," Koc said. "They can take a Chinese product and sell it. They are the middleman."

Area distribution firms "hired a lot of people," he said. "I didn't say they got paid a lot."

Jobs in distribution and materials handling such as forklift driver and packer pay in the range of $11 to $14.50 an hour, with little opportunity for advancement, the survey showed.

By contrast, a mechanic capable of maintaining manufacturing machinery can start at $15.25 an hour, and, with training, can expect $22.48 an hour.

Even though the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector is declining, manufacturers are still scrambling to fill the most highly skilled jobs.

Lindsay Winters, a recruiter at Colorcon Inc., said she searched hard to find the scientists who could develop the pill coatings manufactured by the Montgomery County company.

"We are actually looking for more scientists and more people with chemistry backgrounds," she said. "Even our sales force needs to be highly technical."

J. Donald Daemer, a human-resources executive at Kingsbury Inc., would like to hire more skilled machinists at the Northeast Philadelphia manufacturer of bearings.

"We need trained skilled machinists to operate the machines. It's extremely difficult," he said. "There are lots of people who are taking those skills and going into retirement."

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Compensation for Selected Jobs

Salaried Jobs 2005 weighted average pay 2006 weighted average pay % change

Accountant (beginning) $35,511 $37,418 5.4

Billing clerk $30,688 $30,233 -1.5

CAD drafter (detail) $35,569 $35,349 -0.6

Credit/collection specialist $38,190 $40,785 6.8

Customer service representative (entry) $28,627 $29,316 2.4

Engineer, director $90,817 $96,157 5.9

Engineer, electrical (intermediate) $61,907 $64,686 4.5

Engineer, mechanical (advanced) $75,981 $74,014 -2.6

Engineer, systems/software (advanced) $89,611 $90,227 0.7

Field sales supervisor $66,571 $63,543 -4.5

Field service technician (advanced) $62,621 $70,681 12.9

Graphic artist $44,212 $46,334 4.8

Human Resource Generalist (senior) $52,587 $56,090 6.7

Import/export coordinator $38,725 $40,775 5.3

Laboratory production supervisor/manager $63,624 $68,125 7.1

Machine shop supervisor (first level) $53,981 $58,623 8.6

Mail room supervisor $41,783 $42,889 2.6

Marketing director $98,200 $109,046 11.0

Network administrator (single facility) $51,582 $58,087 12.6

Payroll administrator $53,038 $56,829 7.1

Payroll clerk (experienced) $35,731 $39,269 9.9

Plant manager $87,834 $94,550 7.6

Product designer $48,733 $52,127 7.0

Product design engineer $66,795 $71,897 7.6

Production scheduler (master) $59,853 $62,066 3.7

Programmer/analyst (senior) $67,674 $72,303 6.8

Purchasing agent $56,057 $58,509 4.4

Receptionist $28,820 $28,712 -0.4

Safety manager $51,721 $51,678 -0.1

Technical support analyst $39,622 $40,584 2.4

Warehouse manager $59,413 $61,216 3.0

Hourly Jobs

Forklift driver $10.74 $11.01 2.5

Janitor (office) $11.69 $11.62 -0.6

Janitor (plant/sanitation) $10.90 $11.74 7.7

Light assembler (advanced) $16.18 $16.81 3.9

Machinist (advanced) $21.73 $21.21 -2.4

Packer $13.33 $13.65 2.4

Production labor (light) $11.71 $10.12 -13.6

Production painter (beginning) $13.22 $14.42 9.1

Quality inspector/auditor (advanced) $17.52 $17.80 1.6

Welder (advanced) $19.58 $19.96 1.9

SOURCE: MidAtlantic Employers' Association 2006 Wage and Salary Survey

ONLINE EXTRA

How did top executives fare last year in terms of compensation? See our executive compensation package, including a searchable database, at http://go.philly.com/pay0702

Information Technology

Includes jobs in programming, network administration, technical support and management.

Pay: Up an average of 6 percent. Last year: Up 3.4 percent.

Employment in the category: Up 6.5 percent, the first jump since 2000.

Pay fell for some types of IT managers and for intermediate-level help-desk coordinators.

High-paying jobs: IT directors and senior systems analysts, more than $72,000 a year.

Top job: Chief information technology executive, $143,600, up 7.3 percent.

At the bottom: Data-entry clerk, $30,849, up 5.1 percent.

Of note: Information-technology managers continued to do well, with 6 percent to 13 percent average pay increases, although some types of managers' average salaries declined.

- 2005 2006

- Average Average %

Job Salary Salary Change*

Help-desk coordinator

(intermediate) $36,273 $34,863 -3.9

(senior) $41,592 $47,128 13.3

Technical support

analyst $39,622 $40,584 2.4

*These are averages; Krupa Patel's wages also compensate her for her Web design work. She has received annual pay increases.

Administration and Office Support

Includes jobs in accounting, human resources, office and sales support, purchasing, production planning, and customer service.

Pay: Up an average of 2.9 percent. Last year: Up 3.7 percent.

Employment in the category: Down about 1 percent.

Pay fell for chief executive officers' administrative assistants, billing clerks, expediters, production planners, and highly skilled customer-service and technical-services representatives.

High-paying jobs: Estimators, master production planners, and advanced cost accountants, more than $60,000 a year.

Top job: Controller, $88,177, up 0.1 percent.

At the bottom: Mail clerk, $23,886, up 0.4 percent.

Of note: Experienced accounting personnel earned major increases - advanced clerks up 6.9 percent for an average salary of $38,853 and top accountants up 8.5 percent to $53,665.

Production, Maintenance and Service

Includes jobs in manufacturing such as machine builder, mechanic, electrician, machinist, forklift driver, laborer, quality inspector and service technician.

Pay: Up an average of 0.5 percent. Last year: Up 2.1 percent.

Employment in the category: Up 1.6 percent.

Pay fell for production laborers, printers, and workers in plastics, chemical production and electronics.

High-paying jobs: Experienced maintenance mechanics and machinists, master electricians, and tool- and die-makers, more than $21 an hour.

Top job: Service technician, $26.92 an hour, up 10.9 percent.

At the bottom: Light assembler handling non-complex tasks, $9.98 an hour, up 4.1 percent.

Of note: The number of workers handling goods manufactured elsewhere increased 17 percent.

Process machine

operator (helper) $12.51 $13.33 6.6

operator (intermediate) $13.36 $14.58 9.1

operator (high complexity) $17.19 $16.12 -6.2

*These are averages; Hector Rivera is an experienced operator and has received raises annually.

Engineering, Science and Technology

Includes engineers, chemists, CAD drafters, laboratory technicians, and quality-control inspectors.

Pay: Up an average of 3.9 percent. Last year: Up 3.9 percent.

Employment in the category: Down 1.9 percent.

Pay fell for some mechanical engineers, advanced draftsmen, and quality-control inspectors.

High-paying jobs: Advanced-level engineers, $74,000 to $90,000.

Top job: Vice president of engineering, $126,287, up 6.3 percent.

At the bottom: Lowest-level drafter, $35,349, down 0.6 percent.

Of note: Engineering jobs increased 2.1 percent, and engineers' pay rose an average of 3.3 percent. Employment of technicians fell 4.0 percent, but their pay rose an average of 4.9 percent.

- 2005 2006

- Average Average %

Job Salary Salary Change

Chemist $48,731 $49,492 1.6

Chemist (advanced) $61,924 $63,622 2.7

Supervisors and Managers

Includes plant managers, first-level supervisors, and directors, but not top executives.

Pay: Up an average of 4.3 percent.

Last year: Up 5.4 percent.

Employment in the category: Down 1.4 percent.

Pay fell for materials directors, traffic managers, customer-service managers, field-sales supervisors, and safety managers.

High-paying jobs: Budget and financial-analysis managers, plant managers, and managers in sales promotion and manufacturing, more than $80,000.

Top job: Marketing director, $109,046, up 11 percent.

At the bottom: Shipping and receiving supervisor, $42,205, down 1.8 percent.

Of note: Employment levels tend to remain relatively stable for managers.

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