HARRISONBURG — The Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce published the results of the Wage & Benefit Survey in February, the first of its kind in years.

Results come from businesses and nonprofits in the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton and Waynesboro, as well as the counties of Augusta, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham and Shenandoah.

There were 195 participants in the survey, with 167 headquartered in Virginia, 27 headquartered in another state, and one headquartered overseas.

The survey also included sub-surveys organized by region and benefits.

Many similar statistics can be obtained through state and federal government sources, said Frank Tamberrino, president and CEO of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce.

However, there is often a sizeable delay in getting that information, making it harder for employers to gauge wage and benefit adjustments, he said.

“The whole premise was to get some updated wages,” Tamberrino said, which area employers had been clamoring for.

The last time the Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce commissioned a similar study was about 10 years ago, said Annette Medlin, president and CEO of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“The name of the game these days in the economy is workforce,” Tamberrino said.

Larger firms often have a greater ability to offer their employees higher wages and benefits, due to the “power of numbers,” Tamberrino said, which can help firms reach retirement and health care size goals, in turn reducing costs.

The chamber is not the only organization to crunch labor numbers in the Valley.

The Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board also arranges local workforce data, but the data is sourced from government statistics and often has a delay, said Debby Hopkins, workforce officer with SVWDB. This delay can be from a couple of weeks to years, she said.

Though this data is still relevant and important to local employers, the Greater Augusta chamber’s survey has other strengths, she said.

“It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s real-time,” Hopkins said.

“For live, current, real-time information, you can’t beat these types of surveys,” she said.

Harrisonburg, Page, Rockingham and Shenandoah had 108 survey participants with a combined 159 operations in the four localities. Of the respondents, 30 were nonprofits and 78 were private businesses and more than half had less than 20 employees.

Leave Benefits

Over 70% of respondents offered paid vacation leave or paid holiday leave, with over 50% offering paid sick leave. However, there was a large difference in nonprofit respondents that offered paid sick leave, 80% and only 42.3% of business respondents.

Almost 15% of respondents offered no paid leave, with the largest percentage being in the retail trade, at 37.8%. Retail firms also offered no paid personal leave, paid community service leave or paid dependent care leave to employees.

All construction and manufacturing respondents offered paid vacation leave, with 100% of construction respondents also offering paid holiday leave.

Pay Benefits

Half of educational service respondents offered both holiday pay and overtime pay, while 16.6% of firms offer special shift pay.

All construction firm respondents also offered holiday pay, overtime pay and the highest company stock options at 42.9%. The same percent of construction firms offer special shift pay, which was only beaten by manufacturing, of which 72.7% respondents offer the benefit.

Arts, entertainment and recreation respondents were the only the industry to not offer any overtime pay. The next lowest respondent was “other services,” with 30.8% firms offering overtime pay.

Retirement Benefits

Just over half, 50.9% of respondents, offered employer matching contributions for any percent, with 61.1% of firms offering 401(k) or other defined contribution plans.

The only respondent to not offer any retirement benefits was finance and insurance firms, while no sector had 100% of firms offering retirement benefits.

Barely one-tenth of respondents, 11.1%, offer a pension or other defined benefit plan, with half of firm respondents offering the benefit.

Insurance Benefits

All educational services and manufacturing respondents offered health insurance, while construction respondents offered none. Construction firms also did not offer dental, life, vision, short- or long-term disability, health savings account or flexible spending account.

Arts, entertainment and recreation respondents similarly offered few insurance benefits, but with 20% offering health and 20% offering a health savings account.

Between 50% and 33.3% of professional, scientific and technical service firms offered insurance, depending on the type.

One-tenth of finance and insurance firms do not offer insurance to employees.

Employee Assistance Benefits

Over half of respondent industries, 57.4%, do not offer any employee assistance benefits. These would include wellness, addiction treatment, legal, transportation, child care and adoption.

Only 3.7% of respondents offered child care in only three industries — finance and insurance, health care and social assistance, with manufacturing being the largest at 18.2%.

Education Benefits

Over half of respondents, 51.9%, offer some kind of education benefit to employees.

Less than 1% of respondents offered student loan assistance, the only respondents being in the finance and insurance industry.

One-quarter of respondents offer full or partial tuition for occupational certification with the only industry not offering the benefit being the arts, entertainment and education industry.

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com

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