The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest employment cost index data for the fourth quarter of 2011. Overall, wages and salaries in the private sector rose 0.4 percent in the quarter, matching their growth from the third quarter. Private sector benefit costs were up 0.7 percent in the quarter. On an annual basis, total compensation increased 2.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010, with benefits 3.6 percent higher.
Looking specifically at manufacturing, wages and salaries were up 1.8 percent in 2011, with total compensation rising 2.8 percent. The index breaks this data down by manufacturing occupations, and the annual increases in total compensation were as follows:
- Management, professional and related – up 3.1 percent in 2011
- Sales and office – up 2.6 percent
- Natural resources, construction and maintenance – up 3.0 percent
- Production, transportation and material moving – up 2.6 percent
The largest increase in compensation for manufacturers stemmed from benefits, which rose 4.7 percent year-over-year. It is important to note that much of this increase was due to higher health insurance premiums. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released last year, for instance, estimated that family premiums for health insurance rose 9 percent in 2011 for family coverage, significantly higher than the 3 percent increase in 2010.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.