Year-to-Year Analysis of Salary Survey Data Trends: 2012-2013

by Lyle Leritz, Ph.D. 2. July 2013 15:29


From October 2012 to April 2013, organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada submitted compensation data for use in ERI’s traditional industry-specific and job function salary surveys.   As we prepare to release the 2013 reports (available in August), let’s revisit a look at data trends from a year ago. Last year’s analysis showed that wage rates for 65% of the benchmark jobs increased from 2011 to 2012. Across the entire sample, the average change in salary was 3.6%. 

Moving forward, this analysis similarly compares salaries between 2012 and 2013 submissions to ERI Salary Surveys, for both nonprofit and for-profit reports. For each year, total averages were calculated by job title, and included all available data (that is, industry and area breakouts were ignored) to maximize sample size (similar to a national report).

The preliminary dataset included 993 job titles common to reports from both years. The 2012 data included data from 601 unique organizations, while the 2013 data included 578 unique organizations. Titles with fewer than 10 observations in either year were dropped from the analysis, resulting in 171 titles for comparison. In an effort to show meaningful patterns, the job titles were grouped into job families. Subsequent posts will examine administrative and computer occupations.

Wage rates for 53% of the benchmark jobs increased from 2012 to 2013. Across the entire sample, the average change in salary was 1%. Both of these represent slower growth than what we reported in 2012 and are a bit lower than expected given recent economic indicators of a recovering economy. One possible explanation is that after a few years of low wage growth, organizations were playing catch up in 2012. This is potentially supported by 2012 having more variability in wage growth than was seen in 2013.

Similar to the report from last year, we compared eight executive titles. As can be seen in the graphic below, organizations reported slightly higher salaries in 2013 for three of the eight executive titles, ranging from 2% to 6%. Survey results for Executive VP and Top Legal Officer showed substantial decreases in 2013. Chief Operating Officer remained unchanged.


Sample sizes for six positions increased in 2013, and one stayed the same. Only Executive VP saw a decrease in sample, which could contribute to the considerable drop in salary for this position. Matching individual salary changes across years is beyond the scope of the current analysis. Furthermore, while it may be possible to match organization submissions from year to year, it is not possible to ensure that the data corresponds to the same incumbent (also of note, constraining the analysis to the same organizations is not part of traditional survey methodology and doing so would further limit the sample). Nevertheless, such year-to-year comparisons do underscore the importance of understanding survey methodology and sample sizes.