Ellen Creager, MCT
Tourists visit Fallingwater in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania. The house with its cantilevered terraces was built in 1936-39 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, within the U.S. Department of Labor, recently released its latest reading of occupational, non-farm, employment and wages. Annual wages and the number of those employed are reported for a total of 821 occupations within 22 general groups. Data for this survey are compiled semiannually.

Overall, the mean annual wage reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was $45,790. Items such as overtime pay and shift differential pay were excluded. The U.S. work force employed totaled just more than 130 million for this survey.

A total of 6.4 million people were reported to have occupations in the general field of management. The average annual wage for this broad category was reported to be $108,570. Within this category, the highest-earning occupations included chief executives, architectural and engineering managers and natural science managers.

Occupations in the computer and mathematics areas reported the next highest average annual compensation level of $80,180. At the time of this survey, 3.6 million people were reported to be employed in this general category. In this category, actuaries reported the highest specific average annual salary of $106,680. Within this overall category, the low end of the various jobs reported an average annual salary of $50,130 for computer support specialists.

Sixteen percent of the total reported work force, or 21.4 million people, in the U.S. had occupations in the office and administrative support areas, where the average annual salary was $34,410.

Food preparation and serving related occupations reported the lowest average annual wage of $21,380. Chefs and head cooks had the highest annual salaries in this category and fast-food counter workers were at the low end of the range.

As might be expected, some of the highest average salary levels for specific occupations were in the health care category. Oral surgeons, anesthesiologists and general surgeons reported annual average salaries of $216,440, $232,830 and $230,540, respectively. At the same time, health care support jobs indicated average annual earnings of $27,780.

This survey also provided statistics about the differences in wage levels in different geographic areas across the U.S. For example, the average wage for accountants and auditors was $54,620 in North Dakota while these same jobs averaged $87,370 in the District of Columbia.

As all these figures are averages, there can be wide variations within each of the categories and across locations. Even within certain larger U.S. states, the wages can differ dramatically by location. A few general observations might be drawn from these statistics. First, when viewed by job category, the more specialized the job, the higher the pay. Second, the more education and training required to qualify for a specific job, the higher the compensation.

Kirby Brown is the CEO of Beneficial Financial Group in Salt Lake City.