Most companies that pay six figures to the majority of their workers aren’t big banks or money managers, but biotech firms that rely on medical researchers, and energy and technology companies with a large number of engineers and technical staff.
More than 100 companies in the S&P 500 routinely awarded employees $100,000 or more in 2017, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Nearly half of those were in the energy industry, including oil and gas drillers, refiners and electric utilities. Together, the energy companies employ more than 600,000 people, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of federal filings and company-employment data from S&P Global Market Intelligence Capital IQ.
Public companies in the U.S. are offering a first-ever glimpse into how they compensate rank-and-file employees, thanks to disclosure requirements under the federal Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 that took effect this year. The disclosures show total compensation for the median employee at each company; until this spring companies were only required to detail the millions that top executives often take home in bonuses and stock.
The data reveal the types of firms where lucrative jobs are the norm rather than the exception. Some of the highest reported median wages were paid by pharmaceutical companies. Four firms in the S&P 500 paid workers in the middle of their payrolls more than $200,000. Facebook Inc.was one of them; the other three are developing drugs to fight everything from cancer to psoriasis. At Incyte Corp. , Celgene Corp.and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., the middle earners last year made $253,000, $213,000 and $211,500, respectively.
One financial firm ranked in the top 25 for highest median earnings: At boutique asset managerAffiliated Managers GroupInc. last year, the typical pay package was $157,384.Goldman Sachs Group Inc.came in 46th, with $135,165, the midpoint among roughly 34,000 employees at the bank.
Several big tech and oil companies disclosed larger median pay packages. Exxon Mobil Corp. ranked 20th, with its typical worker earning $161,562. Salesforce.com Inc. ranked 28th, with a median pay of $155,284.
Ten of the 25 highest median salaries last year were found at companies based in the Midwest or South, where $150,000 stretches farther than it would in many cities on the coasts.
The average overall compensation figure for the roughly 400 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported median pay so far is $78,830. The median for all U.S. workers was just under $38,000 last year, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Industries where the public-company analysis shows high median pay also tend to feature higher pay in Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which cover the entire economy. For instance, in pharmaceutical manufacturing, the median salary is around $58,000 a year, while pay for people employed in oil and gas extraction comes to roughly $71,600, according to BLS data, placing both sectors well-above the norm across all industries.
On average, the best-paying jobs were with companies that employ around 17,000 people, compared with an average head count of roughly 53,000 for all S&P 500 firms, according to the Journal analysis. Companies had an average of 82,000 employees for where pay for rank-and-file workers was the lowest.
Two of the biggest factors pushing median pay up or down are the proportion of low-wage employees in countries where overall income is lower, including at many manufacturers, and the share of seasonal or part-time employment, such as at retailers and restaurants.
Half of the 25 lowest-paid median employees worked part time at companies such as Gap Inc. and Yum Brands Inc., which owns Taco Bell and KFC. Wages for clothing maker Hanesbrands Inc. were the lowest in the S&P 500. Nearly 90% of the North Carolina company’s 67,200 employees work outside the U.S. The middle earner is an equipment operator in Honduras, taking home $5,237 a year.
Employers also have a lot of leeway in how they calculate the range of pay packages. Some used salary alone to identify their median worker, while others chose to include stock options or even paid vacation time—and so two identical figures for total compensation could entail completely different paychecks.
The SEC also gave companies the choice of excluding some international workers or independent contractors when analyzing pay—though no more than 5% of the global total workforce.As a result, median salary got a boost at some companies that rely on thousands of such workers, who often earn much less than typical employees. For example, Facebook like many other tech firms didn’t include contractors or workers employed by an outside staffing agency in their pay analysis.
Incyte, the Wilmington, Del., drugmaker that tops the list, said it calculated its 2017 median by comparing salaries, bonuses, stock options and retirement savings for all full-time and part-time staff. It included all 220 overseas workers and converted pay for people in Europe and Japan into U.S. dollars. The company didn’t disclose how much workers take home in their base salaries.
Facebook, which ranked second to Incyte with a median pay package of $240,000, and big tech peers Netflix Inc.NFLX 0.57% and Alphabet Inc., the parent of Google, included equity in their compensation calculations. All three companies declined to break out base salaries from stock options they granted.
At some traditional companies, compensation tended to be a combination of base pay and overtime. At DTE Energy Co. , an electric and natural gas utility based in Detroit, and Valero Energy Corp. , a refiner based in San Antonio, last year’s median pay of more than $170,000 included salary, bonuses and overtime.
Some of these firms offered more detailed portraits of their workforce. The median-paid DTE employee is a senior-level professional holding two master’s degrees and earning $173,839 a year, according to a filing.
At CMS Energy Corp. , a Michigan company that ranked 17th highest in median pay, the typical employee held a senior-level budget or finance job that required a bachelor’s degree and received more than $66,000 in pension and other annual benefits, on top of a $101,000 salary, the company said. At Consumers Energy Co., a CMS subsidiary, the median typical employee is an electrical worker who was hired after completing an employer-sponsored training or apprentice program and made $152,000 after adding overtime and benefits to a salary of $79,000.
Source: The Wall Street Journal