Seventeen years, 17 surveys, 17 analyses, 17 results. My, how time flies. It sometimes seems unbelievable that we have been conducting the Mailing Systems Technology Annual Wage & Operations Survey for that long just two years less than the life of this magazine. And along the way, the industry has changed dramatically, but yet it somehow stays the same. The goal in each mail center has remained constant throughout the years: get the mail out on time and at the lowest possible cost. However, how we get the mail out has seen tremendous change. And that change will continue as we enter a new frontier in which mail is a complement to electronic communication or, as we in the mail industry prefer to say, electronic communication is a complement to mail.


The 337 mail centers that participated in this survey can attest to change, some positive and some challenging. The survey respondents represent 6,322 mail industry workers from every state in the US, from the smallest of mail centers to those processing one billion pieces of mail a year and from First-Class, Periodical and Standard Mail operations. With that wide of a cross section, we have gotten a real feel for the state of the mail industry. There is no other comprehensive survey in the mailing industry, and certainly none that have run consistently for 17 years.


In Part 1 of the survey results, we reveal the wage portion; while in Part 2, we unveil the results of the operational side of the survey. There is a notable change in the mailing industry, as the economy remains weak, thereby, producing little good news on mail center staff wages. But more troubling is the emergence of an unstable workforce for the first time in years. Is it a trend or

a fluctuation? Only future surveys will uncover the real answer.


Managers Gain, Supervisors Lose

It was not that many years ago when mail center managers saw annual increases in their pay of seven percent as they worked diligently to bring their salaries in line with other department heads. The stagnant economy made that job even tougher as pay increases leveled out to two percent. This year,

however, our managers were able to average a four percent increase over 2005 salaries.


The pay for supervisors took a dip this year, from an average of $39,700 last year to $37,600. It's not that supervisors are taking pay cuts; it's a result of less senior workers filling supervisor positions as the average number of years on the job dropped from 12 to 10 years. However, they are responsible for supervising 6.5 employees compared to last year when they supervised, on average, 5.5 workers.


Another notable difference in managers' and supervisors' salaries is the drop in wages in the western region of the US, historically, a high-pay area. Again, this is explained by a high turnover rate from 2005 to 2006, with years employed dropping from 11 to seven years for managers and from nine to five years

for supervisors. It will be interesting to follow and determine if this is a start to a national unstable workforce trend or a regional fluctuation.


A Reversal in the Turnover Trend

Overall, turnover in the mail center is again problematic for the first year in several years another indication of a more unstable workforce, but this time, on a national level. After working hard over the years to stabilize the mail center workforce, managers now face a 10% turnover rate, three percent more than the last three years. The last time the industry saw a 10% turnover rate was in 2001, and it hasn't experienced a backward trend for over a decade.


Pay rates and managerial experience do have an impact on retention of employees. Mail centers with a turnover rate greater than 10% (the industry average) pay employees 10% less per hour at the high-end of the pay schedule and 16% less for entry-level pay. In terms of experience, managers with only a year under their belts have a high turnover rate of 17%, while those with 10 years have a 12% rate and for managers with 25 years on the job, the turnover rate drops to 9%.


Stabilized Workforce

Mail centers with union-represented labor are not experiencing the higher turnover rates averaging only a 6.5% turnover rate. The average number of years workers stay in union shops is 12, while non-union shops retain employees for an average of six years. Higher wages paid to union workers is most likely the overriding reason for the lower turnover rate with entry-level wages being 39% higher than non-union shops and high-end wages are 24% higher. However, another point to ponder: the number of people supervised by managers is six in union shops compared to nine in non-union shops.


Doubling the Numbers

Managers are not getting help through certification programs to help solve the turnover issue, since those who are certified and those who are not certified have equal turnover rates. Certification, however, does play an important role for mail mangers, as those who have been certified get paid higher than the industry average. Managers who have received U.S. Postal Service EMCMP status make 21% more than the average manager's salary the highest reported salaries of any of the certification programs. Regardless of the type of certification, overall, certified managers earn 17% more than managers who are not certified. And more managers are seeking certifications than ever before. In 2006, the number of managers who are certified doubled over the

number of managers who were certified in 2005. Twenty-nine percent of managers hold the EMCMP, 21% have the CMDSM, 14% are CMM certified and 36% have other types of certifications, most of which are MQC.


Learn More in the Next Issue

Make sure to watch for the November-December issue that features Part 2 of the survey results. We will reveal which operational challenges managers find most daunting, what the industry thinks of Postal Reform, how much it costs to process a piece of mail, what technology managers are investing in, what tools are used to run best-in-class operations and much more. Thanks to all of you who took the time to fill out the survey. Without your input, the industry would not have the benefit of understanding itself better and you would not have benchmarks against which you can judge your own operations.


Don't forget to visit our web site to get even more survey results at