The average salaries of plastics and packaging professionals has plummeted 10-15 percent since early 2000, according to a newly released survey from Gros Plastics Recruiters.
While that downward trend is expected to reverse during the next few years, the past few years have not been easy ones for workers, said Dennis Gros, president of the Brentwood, Tenn.-based executive recruiting firm. Gros said he launched the survey after observing a salary plunge from larger paydays in the late 1990s.
``The psychology of the [job] candidate, based on market demand, crashed after early 2000,'' Gros said in a Dec. 16 telephone interview. ``By 2002, the question a candidate was asking was not how much money there is to get, but how secure is a job and if the candidate can even get a job.''
Most of the salary drop took place between early 2000 and mid-2002, when amounts slipped by 12-15 percent, Gros said. While those salary levels have held fairly steady since then, the recruiting firm is starting to see a rebound in jobs and paychecks. Still, it will take a while before salaries return to those higher-water marks of the late 1990s, he added.
The online salary survey was filled out by 2,651 plastics and packaging professionals, representing a cross section of processing, machinery, resin and compounding companies.
Gros has witnessed similar salary declines in his daily work, fueling the benchmarking study that he now plans to repeat annually. For instance, field sales managers garnered salary offers of $95,000-$105,000 during the peak year of 1999 and in early 2000, he said. Today, those sales managers attract an average annual salary of about $85,000.
The survey also reported that 28 percent of respondents did not expect a bonus in 2004, and 24 percent do not anticipate that changing in 2005, Gros said. However, 21 percent of those people who did not receive a 2004 bonus expect to receive one in 2005.
And 28 percent of the professionals said that the portion of their health-care benefits covered by employers declined in 2004, Gros said. About 10 percent of respondents said they are not confident that their jobs will exist in 12 months.
Yet, some of that gloominess was offset by other results. More than half of those questioned were happy in their jobs, and close to two-thirds worked at least 46 hours a week in 2004.
And while about a third of respondents said they probably will be looking for work in 2005, that could mean that they put off looking until times were better. There are more opportunities now for job growth, and the trend should continue to move upward, he said.
``We're looking ahead and seeing that it will be better,'' Gros said. ``A lot of the [formerly] unemployed but talented performers are now employed. The change is significant.''
Job activity is especially strong in the injection molding community, Gros said. On the other hand, the resin and compounding areas have not seen the same growth yet.