Autoworkers still do well, but their pay is declining - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Autoworkers still do well, but their pay is declining

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Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 5:45 pm | Updated: 4:50 pm, Thu May 12, 2011.

U.S. auto industry production workers still hold down some of the highest-paying jobs in manufacturing, but their pay is on the decline, and there are blue-collar jobs that pay more, according to a new study by a U.S. Department of Labor.

Based on the demands of their jobs and the value of what they produce, autoworkers are paid more than some manufacturing workers who have more demanding jobs and produce more valuable goods, reported Bureau of Labor Statistics economist Richard Wallick.

Wallick said auto industry workers received average compensation -- wages and benefits -- of $36.98 per hour in 2009, down from $39.68 the previous year. That compares with an average of $24.92 per hour that workers in other production jobs received in 2009.

Blue-collar workers in two other industries Wallick examined were paid more. Petroleum industry workers were paid an average of $50.29 per hour in 2009, while aerospace workers received wages and benefits worth $38.55 an hour that year.

On average, he found the lowest paying blue-collar jobs were in the wood ($18.71 per hour), textile ($18.61 per hour) and apparel ($12.55 per hour) industries.

Wallick also compared blue-collar pay scales to the demands of working in a particular industry and the value of goods blue-collar workers produced.

He measured how demanding jobs in different industries were based on four pieces of data BLS collects as part of its National Compensation Survey: knowledge required, how complex the job is, how much a worker must interact with others and work environment conditions.

Based on those measures, workers who make steel, aluminum and other primary metals have more demanding jobs than autoworkers, but on average were paid 25 percent less in 2009. Wallick found that workers who produce machinery or paper also have more demanding jobs but were paid less than autoworkers. Petroleum and aerospace workers, who have some of the most demanding jobs he looked at, have the highest average hourly wages.

On a dollar-per-hour basis, autoworkers generated $111.51 in value in 2007 at a mean (half of the workers made more, half less) hourly compensation of $38.68. By contrast, their blue-collar counterparts in the petroleum industry received mean compensation of $38.93 per hour, but added value at an hourly rate of $810.37.

The "value added" is based on subtracting the value of materials, containers, fuel and other production costs from the price tag of shipped products. Wallick said the 2007 figures were the latest available.

Beverage industry workers produced nearly three times the value in an hour as autoworkers, yet received mean hourly compensation of $28.77, 26 percent less than the auto industry mean.

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