How accurate is Labor Dept. Data?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | 11:15 AM

Fascinating criticism of a recent Department of Labor's 2004 National Compensation Survey of wages and income (by career) by 2 airline pilots.

It calls into question the methodology and underlying presumptions of the Labor Dept. and by extension, the BLS:

We're Earning More? You Could've Fooled Us
September 26, 2005; Page A19

Your article "Wage Winners and Losers: Most Paychecks Fell in 2004 but U.S. Survey Finds Pilots, Doctors Came Out Ahead" (Marketplace, Sept. 13) did a grave disservice to the thousands of pilots who have sacrificed billions in salary concessions and billions in lost pensions, not to mention the thousands of pilots currently furloughed and those who have lost their jobs and benefits completely.

The Air Line Pilots Association has serious questions concerning the Bureau of Labor Statistics data and how the study was conducted. These questions remain unresolved despite repeated calls to the agency. As we told your reporter: "We're unclear how the government could have come up with numbers that show an increase. This study flies in the face of the reality that pilots are working more hours while taking substantial pay cuts, losing some or all of their pensions and paying more for health care."

Capt. Duane E. Woerth
Air Line Pilots Association

On behalf of the Allied Pilots Association representing the 13,000 pilots of American Airlines, I was surprised to read in your Sept. 13 edition that pilot pay has supposedly increased 15.6% from 2003. You also quoted Department of Labor statistics that indicate pilots work an average of 20.5 hours per week. In April 2003, our pilots agreed to a 23% across-the-board pay cut to help American Airlines remain solvent. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, nearly 3,000 of our pilots have taken a 100% pay cut as a result of being furloughed.

As for how much our pilots work, Federal Aviation Administration regulations limit airline pilots to 1,000 actual flying hours per year. To amass that much flying time, our pilots typically spend between 2,500 and 2,800 hours away from home, with many of those hours devoted to essential pre- and post-flight duties.

Our experience at American Airlines, the nation's largest scheduled passenger carrier, is that our pilots are working harder than ever and for substantially less income than they were at the beginning of 2003. A quick scan of the airline industry will tell you we are, by no means, alone in this regard.

Capt. Ralph Hunter
Allied Pilots Association
Fort Worth, Texas

Pilots making more money, given all the bankruptcies and layoffs? Hardly makes any sense to me. They raise some interesting points -- and should make you wonder what sort of unwarranted assumptions are built into the Labor Department models . . .

The graphic detailing the salary gains from the original WSJ article is below.

click for larger graphic



We're Earning More? You Could've Fooled Us
September 26, 2005; Page A19,,SB112768744339751528,00.html

Wage Winners and Losers
Most Paychecks Fell in 2004 But U.S. Survey Finds Pilots, Doctors Came Out Ahead
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, September 13, 2005; Page B1,,SB112657650869238922,00.html

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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Could it be because layoffs come from the bottom of the seniority list? I doubt this survey takes layoffs into account at all, so if you kick out the lower paid pilots the average will increase, even though the total salary amount has shrunk.

Posted by: MRF | Sep 27, 2005 11:32:03 AM

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