The Wall Street Journal – From Coke to Macy’s, Pay for Typical Worker Takes Big Swings

April 10, 2019

By Theo Francis

Coca-Cola’s median worker made 65% less than a year earlier. The one at Macy’s got a 60% raise. Here’s why.

As U.S. companies disclose what they pay typical workers, one thing is clear: A lot can change in a year.

Jefferies Financial Group Inc. almost tripled what it paid its median employee last year. Median pay rose by nearly 60% at Macy’s Inc. and by almost a quarter at biotech CelgeneCorp.  It fell by two-thirds at Coca-Cola Co. and by more than a quarter at snack-maker Mondelez International Inc.

The reasons for these big swings from 2017 to 2018 varied widely, however. Some reflected dramatic shifts in the company’s workforce. Others came about thanks to new ways of identifying that middle employee. Still others reflect actual changes in what individual workers made.

“It’s strange to see any that have changes of 25% or more,” said Eric Hosken, a partner at Compensation Advisory Partners. “You wouldn’t expect to have pay structures that change that much.”

U.S. publicly traded companies were first required to disclose the total pay of their median employees last year, and most are reporting the figure for the second time with their annual proxy statements this spring. (Use this WSJ tool to search pay data for more than 1,000 companies.)

Overall, median pay rose at most of the 282 companies in the S&P 500 that had reported two years of median employee pay through midday April 9, a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from MyLogIQ found. Twice as many companies increased their median-pay figure as lowered it, the Journal found, with 45 companies reporting gains of at least 10% and 33 reporting declines at least that large.

Health insurer Humana Inc. said its figure rose to $70,500 from $57,385 after the company raised its minimum hourly wage for continental U.S. workers to $15 an hour and enrolled more than half of its 41,600 employees in an annual incentive program.

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