Archive for Friday, March 30, 1990


March 30, 1990


A wage survey commissioned by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce indicates that although the jobless rate is down in the city, more people would like to have better-paying jobs.

The survey showed that "it is obvious" that the Lawrence/Douglas County pay level is "considerably lower" in comparison with 14 other metropolitan areas across the country.

Those other cities included large cities, such as New York City, Chicago and San Francisco, and also smaller cities, such as Topeka, and college towns such as Boulder, Colo., and Jackson, Miss.

The survey also concluded that the Lawrence/Douglas County area "offers especially low pay for secretaries, electronics technicians, computer programmers, computer system analysts, mechanics and maintenance carpenters. Wage data for retail sales clerks are not available, but are also assumed to be low."

AND THE SURVEY said that the presence of Kansas University is putting downward pressure on local wages, especially in secretarial, clerical and technical occupations.

"An increasing number of students as well as student and faculty spouses competing for jobs within the community help to drive wages down," the survey said. "Thus the local labor market follows specific rules of supply and demand."

The "Wage Survey and Labor Market Characteristics for Lawrence/Douglas County" was conducted by Helga Upmeier, research associate for Kansas University's Institute for Public Policy and Business Research.

The chamber wanted the survey so it could have up-to-date data to share with business prospects.

"Every company is concerned about labor availability and wage structures," said Bill Martin, director of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

Typically, companies usually try to fit into the existing wage structure of the community so they will pay a competitive wage, Martin said.

The survey studied wages and labor market characteristics of 169 business and non-business establishments in the county.

The establishments surveyed employ nearly 20,000 workers, or about 50 percent of the county's total work force.

"OVERALL, it indicates that more jobs need to be created to bring wage scales up," Martin said.

One of the interesting points Martin made is that although the county unemployment level is low, about 3.4 percent, many people are seeking higher paying jobs.

"Look at the companies that have come in," he said. "UARCO (a bulk mail manufacturer than just located in Eudora's Intech Business Park) received over 3,500 applications for the first 90 jobs . . . There are a lot of people who want to upgrade their jobs."

Martin said what the new companies coming in to the area have found is that not only are they getting large numbers of applicants, they're getting high-quality workers who are easily trained and that there is little turnover or absentee problems.

"Not only are workers available in good supply, they are loyal," he said.

The survey showed that the turnover rates in the county in 1988 were "exceptionally low."

MORE THAN 50 percent of all the respondents had turnover rates of less than 20 percent, while one third of the respondents reported turnover rates of less than 10 percent.

The city's low unemployment level does concern some of the companies who are looking at Lawrence as a possible site, Martin said.

"One of the big concerns from our prospects is labor availability," Martin said. "They come in and see low unemployment rate and they don't think they could attract a good work force. We think good employers can attract good people."

The survey showed that for most occupations, the mean average hourly wages were highest in large establishments.

The following figures show the mean average hourly wage by occupation for all survey respondents (the mean is the total of the earnings per hour divided by the number of workers):

Receptionist, $6.20; retail sales clerk, $4.95; secretary A, $7.10; secretary B, $8.07; bookkeeper, $7.74; payroll clerk, $8.39; data entry operator, $6.96; word processor, $6.89; computer systems analyst, $14.08; computer programmer, $11.40; electronics technician, $10.29; mechanic (machinery), $6.70; warehouseman, $7.13; machine operator, $8.84; assembler, $6.69; maintenance carpenter, $9.71.

THE SURVEY showed that for the majority of occupations surveyed especially for secretarial and clerical jobs, average hourly wages were highest in the government sector.

"Surprisingly, manufacturing firms offer the highest pay for two occupations only: computer programmer and machinery mechanic," the survey said.

The survey said the service sector showed the highest average hourly wage for computer systems analyst.

The survey also showed:

About 60 percent of the responding businesses offer employees flexible hours, with 27 percent offering job sharing and 29 percent allowing longer leaves for new parents.

Less than one-third of the survey respondents said they provided on-the-job training for the occupations surveyed. Government training programs are not being regularly used. Thirteen percent used the Job Training Partnership Act and 8.5 percent used the Kansas Industrial Training program.

Most of the local businesses maintain a 40-hour work week for all occupations except for retail sales clerks.

KU has provided a pool of well-educated workers who have college degrees or some college education.

About 70 percent of the respondents employ students, including 85 percent of the large establishments. However, only 13.5 percent of the respondents had ever used the Kansas Career Workstudy Program, a state-funded initiative to provide career-related jobs for students.

About 30 percent of the survey respondents said it was difficult to recruit qualified secretaries and 6 percent said it was very difficult. The amount of overtime work for each occupation indicates that there is a demand for technical and lower-skilled plant and maintenance workers in the community.

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