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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
The Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page Recent Trends in Compensation Practices
David Lebow, Louise Sheiner, Larry Slifman, and Martha Starr-McCluer

Abstract: According to some accounts, compensation practices have recently been undergoing marked changes, with an increasing number of firms said to be substituting lump-sum payments for regular pay increases, allowing for greater variability of remuneration across individuals or groups, and making greater use of profit sharing or stock options. Many of these practices are outside the scope of the typical measures of economywide compensation growth. Moreover, intensified use of these schemes ought to heighten the responsiveness of overall compensation costs to business conditions and could also, in theory, boost productivity. We find that the spreading use of these practices could be leading to an understatement of the annual growth rate of actual employment costs (relative to the published employment cost index) that is not insignificant--perhaps on the order of three-tenths of a percentage point currently. Moreover, the changes have apparently helped to increase the flexibility of pay both across time and across workers. In addition, by linking pay more closely to performance, the firms we contacted seemed to think that their employees were working more efficiently and with an eye to enhancing the "bottom line" of the company.

Keywords: Compensation, variable pay, stock options

Full paper (2024 KB PDF)

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Last update: September 10, 1999