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PARADE’s annual “What People Earn” salary roundup

How Does Your Salary Stack Up?

Published by Parade magazine: April 13, 2008
Americans are optimistic and resilient by nature. We’re upbeat about our personal prospects despite our anxiety about the current economy. Almost two-thirds of respondents to a national survey say they’re hopeful about what 2008 has in store for them, even though a majority of them, like many experts, believe we are already in the midst of a recession.

Wages Are Down
It’s tough out there: Hiring has slowed, unemployment is rising, and most salaries haven’t kept pace with the cost of basics such as groceries, gasoline and health care.

The U.S. is losing jobs for the first time since 2004. February’s loss of 101,000 jobs was the biggest drop in five years and the third monthly loss in a row.

Both high-end and low-end retailers are reporting slower sales, a sign that consumers at every income level are tightening their belts. As demand falls, many employers have cut their workers’ hours. The Labor Department says more than 600,000 people now work part-time because they can’t find full-time work. A growing number of Americans have been out of work for more than six months. The unemployment rate is expected to rise from 4.8% to 5.5% this year—and experts say it would be even higher if so many people hadn’t given up looking for work.

The nation’s median salary last year was $36,140 (half of all workers made more, half made less). After inflation, that’s almost 0.5% below the 2006 median salary. The average 2007 pay increase was less than 4%, and many Americans got smaller raises or none. Meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index rose 4.3%. We now spend almost 5% more for food, 8.6% more for hospital services and a whopping 35% more for gasoline than we did a year ago.

Health Costs Soar
Health-care costs also are on the rise. Americans whose jobs provide health insurance paid about 11% more for it last year and probably will pay an additional 10% in 2008. Coverage is even more expensive for independent contractors.

Paychecks Won’t Stretch
Even people with good jobs feel they’re losing ground.

The Job Market Contracts
A major housing downturn and nationwide belt-tightening are having a big impact on the job market. The biggest layoffs have been in construction, manufacturing and financial services. Indeed, experts predict that up to 20% of securities-industry workers may lose their jobs. Bear Stearns—Wall Street’s fifth-largest investment bank—collapsed in March and was sold at a fire-sale price. Many of its 14,000 employees may be laid off.

As consumers spend less, hotels, restaurants and other service companies are experiencing their slowest growth in years, so they’re holding off on hiring.

And older workers aren’t retiring. In the mid-1980s, only 18% of people in their late 60s worked. Today, that figure is 29% and growing .

Consumers Cut Back
Americans are responding to today’s economic realities by spending more cautiously, borrowing less and trying to save more.

The soaring cost of oil, now around $100 a barrel, also has driven up the cost of petrochemical-based products—from lipstick, shampoo and shower curtains to polyester clothing and computer parts.

Where the Jobs Are
Even in a recession, some sectors of the economy are likely to keep growing—among them education, health care, security services and information technology. As entertainment increasingly is distributed online, there’s a growing demand for designers, writers and art directors with tech skills.

Good Jobs For Right Now
In a struggling economy, some jobs are more recession-proof than others

Energy. Jobs related to oil, gas and nuclear power remain essential and in demand. Positions range from scientists to engineers to rig and well workers.

Security. The Defense and Homeland Security departments are attempting to fill 83,000 civilian jobs, from auditors to program analysts.

Accounting. Managing corporate finances is especially important during lean times.

Wireless Support. With a mobile workforce, companies need professionals who can maintain wireless networks and protect information security.

Database Administration. As companies become more reliant on data for research, sales, and marketing, there is an increased need for database administrators.

Good Jobs For The Future
Many of the fastest-growing, best-paying jobs are in new media, law and information technology

Information technology
In an economy reliant on technology, professionals who can design, develop and maintain computer systems are crucial. Chief information officers are commanding salaries of more than $200,000. Systems analysts can make more than $91,000.

Lawyers are in high demand in areas including intellectual property, corporate law and litigation. First-year attorneys are starting out at $72,500 in small firms and as high as $137,000 at large firms. Legal-support workers are finding jobs plentiful and salaries healthy too. Legal librarians make as much as $69,500 a year, while calendar clerks can earn up to $46,750.

New media
The rapid growth of the Internet is fueling a boom in online media jobs. A creative director, responsible for website content and presentation, can attract a salary ranging from $80,000 to $120,000. On the business side, advertising salespeople are earning up to $103,500.

PARADE’s annual “What People Earn” salary roundup is not a scientific study. Photo captions reflect the salary information provided by the participants and available sources. Celebrity earnings were compiled through published sources and with the assistance of Additional research and photography coordinated by J. Tyler Pappas Creative.

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