Post-COVID survey shows entry-level pay rising

The Employers’ Association polled members on their efforts to attract workers amid talent war.
Entry-level pay for office workers in West Michigan averages around $15 per hour, according to a survey by The Employers’ Association. Courtesy iStock

A new survey shows employers are raising entry-level pay for manufacturing and office jobs as the post-COVID-19 talent battle heats up.

The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids (TEA) — a not-for-profit membership organization that provides human resources support — last month published the results of its Planning for Post COVID-19 2021 survey, which polled 113 West Michigan TEA member organizations on the average and range of pay for positions broken out by company size, industry type and profit/nonprofit status.

In addition, respondents reported whether they provide any form of bonus for entry-level jobs and what they are doing to attract workers.

Some of the report’s key findings:

  • The most common hourly pay rate for entry-level manufacturing jobs is $15; the average is $14.
  • In the past six months, the average percent increase of starting pay rates for manufacturing jobs was 8%; the most common percent increase was 3%.
  • For office jobs, the most common hourly rate is $15.78, and the average is $15.
  • In the past six months, the most common percent increase of starting pay for office jobs was 3%; the average was 6%.
  • In the next six months, employers anticipate an average entry-level pay increase of 6% for manufacturing jobs and 5% for office jobs.
  • The majority of respondents (65%) are offering a referral bonus over a sign-on bonus (14%).
  • The average referral bonus is $713, while the average sign-on bonus is $665.
  • Just over half (51%) of employers plan to offer hybrid remote/in-person options going forward.
Maggie McPhee

Maggie McPhee, director, information services for TEA, spoke to the Business Journal about the survey report, which she said her organization created to help members with benchmarking and better understanding the market.

“We were getting so many calls and questions in our monthly round tables and things like that about what are you doing about entry level pay?” McPhee said. “Does it help to attract any good candidates? Everybody and their brother is thinking that they have to be competitive on the entry-level rates, so we thought, ‘Well, let’s just see what (members) are actually doing about it.’”

In addition to asking questions about salaries, sign-on bonuses and referral bonuses, at the end of the survey, TEA included two open-ended questions asking respondents to share what other bonuses they might offer for entry-level jobs and what else they are doing to attract workers to their company.

Other perks employers said they are offering included quarterly and year-end bonuses, profit-sharing, employee engagement activities, free YMCA memberships, child care discounts, rides to work, professional development and more.

McPhee said two main themes emerged from those final questions.

“Benefits and schedule flexibility are the two big things that (employers said they) were doing for new hires — just trying to get applicants to understand their benefits package, changing features around their benefit package, making benefits accessible earlier than what they normally would be, things like that,” she said.

Employers listed shortening the benefit waiting period from 90 days to 30 days, offering free health care and life insurance after 60 days, or fully paid health premiums after 90 days, giving new employees immediate paid time off and holidays, increasing their 401(k) matches, providing tuition reimbursement, offering paid volunteer days, and creating incentives for completing wellness milestones. 

On the flexibility side, employers said they were offering a four-day work week, summer hours, part-time schedules, flex time and remote work options.

McPhee said TEA is unsure whether it will conduct a follow-up survey to this one, but it would be interesting to see which of the different measures employers are taking to attract workers will prove successful — especially considering federal enhanced unemployment benefits are ending, and there may be more people looking for work this fall.

“The only other thing that I would add would be that (employers are) not alone,” McPhee said. “Everybody’s going through this. It just depends on the size of your company — the number of openings that everybody has are relative to their size. I hear 26, I hear 35, I hear 17, and smaller companies are going to have fewer openings, obviously. The only thing I can suggest based on conversations would be for anybody who has concerns (about the talent crisis) to contact their legislators.”

More information about the report is available by contacting McPhee at or the Employers’ Association at

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