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1:06 PM Wed, Oct. 17th

Survey shows salary status in tri-city area

PRESCOTT ­ A recent survey sheds an interesting light on wages businesses are offering in the community.

The Tri-City Region of Arizona Wage and Fringe Benefit Survey Report, which came out in February, gives a glimpse into the wages and benefit packages of local businesses.

Jane Bristol, director of economic development for the city, said this is the third update of the survey by The Pathfinders out of Dallas.

Bristol said 57 companies participated in the questionnaire, an increase from 53 businesses in 2004 and 32 in 2002.

"I think we got a really good response," she said. "It was a good mix of small and large employers which is what we're hoping for when we are sending these surveys out."

The sizes of the businesses range from 20 or fewer employees to businesses with 250 or more.

Bristol said 16 businesses reported having between 21 to 40 employees and 19 companies claimed more than 100 employees with seven companies reporting more than 250 employees.

"I think it tells us that jobs are being created in the community and many of those pay a very good wage," she said. "We're getting a good cross-section of the economy, and it gives us a snapshot in time."

She said annual payroll of all the participating businesses is $290 million with 75 percent reporting hourly employees and 23 percent with salaried staff.

Wages listed below are for hourly positions.

In the general assembly category, Bristol said 321 reported being in that job title. The entry-level wage is around $8.75 and the average wage reported is $12.61.

Bristol said businesses reported 211 positions in the janitorial category with an average entry wage of $8.71 and the average wage for all janitors is $10.10 an hour.

The machinist category entry-level wage is $12.50 and the average wage for machinists is $17.

The survey showed 127 administrative assistant positions with an average entry wage of $11.65 and an average wage of $13.98.

In the network administrator category, entry-level wage is $21.52, and the average wage is $24.84.

In the hospitality/tourism industry, the average entry wage for a dish washer is $6.51, and the average wage for all dish washers is $7.26 an hour.

Under health care, the average entry wage for a registered nurse is $22.40, and the average wage is $29.75.

Paramedics on average begin their careers earning $12.74 an hour and the average wage is $16.54.

Teachers in the community earn an average entry wage of $14.04 and an average wage of $25.97 with 308 reporting in that category.

Bristol said the survey doesn't differentiate between charter or public schools or colleges.

The average entry wage for a police officer is $17.71 with the average wage at $20.72.

On the benefits side of the coin, the survey reveals that most employers provide at least some health insurance and most of those plans include prescription drug coverage.

Bristol said more than half of the businesses responding reported offering financial plans like 401ks to their employees.

A smaller group reported offering profit sharing and annual bonuses.

Wages in the county have spiked.

According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Research Administration, the average wage per job in Yavapai County in 1993 was $18,144. A decade later, the average wage was $26,361.

Statewide, the average wage per job in 1993 was $23,385 and jumped to $34,707 in 2003.

The average wage per job in Maricopa County in 1993 was $24,743 and spiked to $37,009 in 2003.

Teri Drew, regional director of Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG), said jobs in the county are improving.

"Yavapai County is having job growth," she said. "The quality of those jobs for Yavapai County (is) positive."

Drew said wages are perking up, though she pointed out wages are probably not where they should be compared to the cost of living.

Looking at the average-wage-per-job figures, Drew said living on roughly $26,000 annually is rather tough.

"Families can't live on $26,000," she said.

She said in 2006, the figure is about $27,000, calling that a "nominal" change.

Based on her experience, Drew said she sees a decline on placement of people in low-labor jobs. Drew said retail is running 40 to 60 job vacancies for up to six months and thus creating a shortage.

Drew said some are choosing the health sector over retail because the education level is similar.

That said, Drew pointed out that people are looking at jobs and careers differently.

"We're not a sustainable job market anymore," she said. "Now we're getting more families that are career-minded."

Contact the reporter at jsoifer@prescottaz.com