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Wages edge up in 4Q

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Employee compensation in a seven-state region that includes Missouri is on the rise, though the uptick is small compared to historic figures, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wages and salaries in fourth-quarter 2010 averaged $18.30 per hour in the West North Central district, which comprises Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, according to BLS data released March 14. The wages and salaries figure represented 71.2 percent of total employee compensation, which was $25.68 in the fourth quarter, a 3.8 percent rise compared to fourth-quarter 2009. Benefits in fourth-quarter 2010 amounted to $7.38 per hour, or 28.8 percent of compensation.

Total average compensation in the U.S., at $27.75 per hour, was slightly higher than Missouri’s district. U.S. wages were at $19.64 in the fourth quarter, and benefits were reported at $8.11.

St. John’s Health System Chief Human Resources Officer Jim Brookhart said St. John’s average wages, minus its physicians, came in at $21.55 per hour for its 6,200 Springfield staff members.  

“It’s a labor-intensive industry, and our primary resource is people,” Brookhart said. “Our biggest expense is salaries and benefits.”

Brookhart said 51 percent of the hospital’s operating budget went toward salaries and benefits, and benefits constituted about one-fourth of its total labor expenses.

“For every dollar in pay, we calculate an additional 24 cents in benefits,” Brookhart said, adding that health care, retirement, dental and vision are St. John’s core employee benefits.

Linda Nickisch, an economist for the BLS, said both wages and benefits in Missouri’s district were increasing, though she believed those increases were modest compared to historical data.

In recent years, the compensation figures have been volatile in Missouri’s district, jumping 9 percent in fourth-quarter 2008 compared to the same quarter in 2007 and dipping 2 percent in fourth-quarter 2009.

“The way the economy is right now we are not seeing great big jumps in wages and salaries,” Nickisch said.

Missouri State University’s Human Resources Director Edward Choate said nearly one-third of its total labor expenses comes from benefits. He said that number may be higher than the district’s average because MSU’s full-time employees only pay $30 in health care premiums, and they have options to reduce that amount by participating in free health-care related activities.

“As a large employer, we go the gamut from a temporary hourly worker to the president of the university,” Choate said, explaining that the university’s wages ranged from around $8 per hour to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Missouri State has 2,039 full-time employees and 1,234 part-time workers. Faculty salaries range from roughly $56,000 to $76,000 on average. Executives and directors average more than $78,000 per year, while support staff are paid nearly $29,000, according to university data.

According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, the per capita income for Greene County residents is $34,193. The average weekly wage in the third quarter of 2010 for the seven-county area that includes Greene County was $621.[[In-content Ad]]


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