Regulators Eye Pay Czar

The latest buzz around the administration’s plans for financial industry regulation overhaul indicates a compensation czar might soon be in order for banks and financial institutions accepting government aid. The administration may appoint Kenneth Feinburg — who managed compensation to victims of the September 11 attacks — to oversee compensation paid to executives, according to a report filed at the Wall Street Journal. In today’s environment, US workers are facing pay cuts as the national unemployment rate reaches 9.4%. Meanwhile, non-farm business across the US continues to trim the excess as 787,000 more people were considered unemployed in May, bringing the US unemployment rate to 9.4% from 8.9%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A separate measurement of unemployment including workers either discouraged or facing hour cuts — or underemployment — topped a record 16.4% from 15.8%. The only bright spot in the figures comes in the form of a slowed rate of decline among payrolls. According to unemployment figures released today, non-farm unemployment payroll decreased by 345,000 in May, about half the average monthly decline seen in the past six months, the bureau said. A slowed rate of layoffs, despite the high total unemployment rate, might help explain the confidence showed by US workers who say their jobs are secure. A Bankrate Inc. survey also released today showed 70% of survey respondents said they felt secure in their jobs despite the rising joblessness. Of those remaining at their jobs, 54% responded they’d received some sort of pay reduction: pay cut, reduced hours, reduced work days, suspended raises, bonuses or 401K match, or a combination of these. Despite the cuts, 50% of respondents said they would continue working even if they won the lottery today, indicating at least some sort of job satisfaction, according to Bankrate. This week, the Labor Statistics Bureau also released revised productivity data for Q109, showing the output per hour of all workers rose 1.8% in the business sector and 1.6% specifically in the non-farm business sector. Whether employees work harder in the shadow of job cuts or are forced to pick up work from laid off co-workers is unclear. Write to Diana Golobay.

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