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Recent survey shows wide salary variation by locale

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Salaries in private industry can, and do, vary considerably depending on where you live, according to a new survey by William M. Mercer Inc.

Mercer's 1999 Geographic Salary Differentials Report indicates a salary that averages $50,000 nationally would be 20 percent more, or approximately $60,200, in San Jose, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley. It would be nearly 17 percent less, or $41,750, in Brownsville, Texas.

By contrast, the same salary in Springfield would be $47,550, 4.9 percent below the national average.

The report points out the complexities that large employers face in managing salary programs in operations that cover the country, said Spencer Fields, a principal and client manager in Mercer's Kansas City office.

"Sensitive compensation issues can arise when companies relocate employees from comparatively high to comparatively low salary areas, and vice versa," Fields said.

According to the report, the higher a salary is, the less sharply it will vary by geographic locale. For example, in Boston, a salary that averages $50,000 nationally would average about 8 percent more, or $54,050. An $80,000 salary, on the other hand, would be $84,320 there, only 5 percent more than the national norm.

A table displaying a range of geographic variations in a position with an average national salary of $50,000 appears at right.

William M. Mercer Inc. is a consulting firm that assists employers in the areas of human resource strategy and implementation.

It has headquarters in New York and offices in 39 other U.S. cities. The firm is the U.S. operating company of William M. Mercer Companies LLC.

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