By Andy Ostmeyer
Average compensation in the Joplin metropolitan area came to $38,431 in 2007.
That’s up 2.9 percent from the figure for the year before, according to a survey released Monday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
It is the smallest increase since average compensation rose 2.8 percent from 2001 to 2002.
Nationwide, average compensation came to $53,892 in 2007, a difference of $15,461 when compared with that of Joplin. Total compensation grew at 4.1 percent nationwide for all counties. About 10 percent of counties did not have growth last year, instead reporting losses.
Average compensation includes wages as well as benefits, and the employer’s contribution for such things as Social Security, said Mauricio Ortiz, an economist with the BEA.
The compensation is based on where employees work and not where they live.
The total value of all compensation in 2007 for the Joplin metro area — defined as Jasper and Newton counties — came to $3.23 billion, according to the BEA, with $2.43 billion of that earned in Jasper County and nearly $800 million earned in Newton County.
Of the $3.23 billion, $2.61 billion was in the form of wage and salary disbursements, with employers paying an additional $427.6 million for pension and insurance benefits, and $189.8 million for government programs such as Social Security.
With compensation totaling nearly $733 million in 2007, manufacturing represented the largest piece of the economic pie, followed by health care, which provided compensation of more than $502.4 million.
Government as an employer was the third largest segment in terms of compensation, at $416.6 million. That segment includes public colleges, according to Ortiz.
Retail trade provided compensation valued at $264.4 million in 2007.
Jim Schwarz, president of Able Manufacturing, with operations in Joplin and Pittsburg, Kan., said that nationwide, manufacturing employs about 14 percent of the work force, but numbers like this indicate its impact is bigger because of what it offers in terms of wages and benefits.
“The effect it has is certainly much greater than that,” Schwarz said.
Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri, said: “Manufacturing jobs tend to be high-paying jobs. That’s why it is important for Missouri to be as competitive as we can be.”
A recent study by Ball State University in Indiana ranked Missouri’s as the most favorable environment among the 50 states for manufacturing, based on such factors as land costs, taxes and the education level of the work force, said McCarty. But, he noted, Missouri is not just competing with other states but with other countries, such as Mexico and China.
Health care, said Gary Duncan, chief executive officer of Freeman Health System, has been one of the drivers in the local economy, and it will continue to be as baby boomers age and seek more medical services.
He also noted that while compensation in the area overall may be low relative to the national average, that is not the case with health care.
Joplin hospitals have to be competitive at a national level, which means that health care is providing a larger boost for the local economy, he said.
Shelly Hunter, vice president of strategy and business development for St. John’s Regional Medical Center, said she wasn’t surprised to see hospitals near the top of the list.
St. John’s and Freeman Health System are among the largest employers in the region.
In tough times, some employers may cut back on benefits in order to save money, but that is not something hospitals can do, particularly with shortages in areas such as nursing and physical therapists.
“We try very hard not to make cutbacks in those areas,” Hunter said. “We have to be competitive.”
Andy Ostmeyer is the metro editor for The Joplin Globe.
Total compensation Average compensation per job
Jasper County $2,435,111,000 $38,673
Newton County $796,552,000 $37,707
Barry County $595,229,000 $36,392
Barton County $143,774,000 $31,288
Lawrence County $326,327,000 $33,642
McDonald County $245,215,000 $32,999
Vernon County $265,943,000 $34,777
Cherokee County $243,122,000 $37,426
Crawford County $657,687,000 $38,490
Delaware County $302,924,000 $31,995
Ottawa County $427,310,000 $34,837
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