Baltimore pay falls short of U.S. averages Many employees earn 3% to 4% less than peers nationwide

Port unions are exception

Washington worker is usually paid more than counterpart here

September 21, 1996|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

Baltimore-area workers in a wide variety of trades and professions earn less than their counterparts in other parts of the country, a new study by the U.S. Labor Department shows.

Of eight broad occupational groups studied by the government, only one -- port workers, warehouse hands, truck drivers and other "material movement" workers -- makes more than the average for its peers nationwide.

Accountants, lawyers, engineers and other Baltimore-area "professionals" made 1 percent less than the national average pay for their group in the study, which was based in 1994 data.

The Labor Department didn't publish dollar figures for the pay; it indexed the figures so they could be ranked and compared.

The lowest relative Baltimore pay was made by janitors, who were 8 percent below the national average.

Material movement workers here earned 5 percent more than their peers countrywide, which Labor Department Regional Commissioner Alan Paisner attributed to port unionization.

The study is "the first attempt in a number of years to make some comparisons from one area to another on those pay levels," Paisner said.

"To people who do wage compensation and benefit work, it gives you an idea across the board of how areas stack up, taking into account the fact that the industry mix might be different" from town to town.

While Baltimore's wage levels may be disheartening to its workers, the flip side is that the cost of living in the area is lower than in similar cities, such as Philadelphia and Washington, as other studies have shown. And lower pay here makes the region more attractive to prospective employers to come in and create jobs, economists say.

Don't expect pay here to boom upward anytime soon, either.

Another new study, by compensation consultants William M. Mercer Inc., reveals that employers in the Baltimore area plan average raises of 3.9 percent in 1997 -- below the 4.1 percent average planned by companies across the country and below the planned 4.3 percent raises among Washington-area companies.

Raises in the Baltimore-Washington area fell behind the national average in the early 1990s, said Mercer spokeswoman Mary Cronin Cherry, and, taken as a lump, the two-city region "has stayed right along with the national average, as opposed to being ahead of it as it had been in the past."

That jibes with the area's employment growth and broader economic performance, which also have lagged behind the nation this decade.

In the Labor Department study, other occupational groups measured were:

Budget analysts, buyers, computer programmers, personnel managers and other "administrative" employees: 2 percent below the national average.

Computer operators, drafters, engineering technicians, other "technical" workers: 2 percent below the national average.

Prison officials, firefighters, police officers: 4 percent below the national average.

Clerks, key-entry operators, word processors, secretaries: 3 /^ percent below.

Maintenance mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, auto mechanics: 4 percent below.

Of nearby cities, Washington's workers made more than Baltimore's in every occupational group but one. Washington janitors are on the same level as Baltimore's. Washington secretaries and other clerical workers, many working for the federal government, make 8 percent more than the national average.

But pay levels in the Norfolk-Newport News, Va., area were far below those of Baltimore. All occupational groups were at least 6 percent below the national average.

Police officers and firefighters in that area made 12 percent less than their peers nationwide.

Pub Date: 9/21/96

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