PNC Bank lifts minimum pay to $18 an hour — a bid to compete for workers

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PNC Bank, which is on a South Florida expansion tear, raised the stakes in a tight job market Monday by declaring it intends to lift its minimum pay for all current and newly hired workers from $15 to $18 an hour.

The hike represents a 20% raise for some 20,000 workers nationally who work directly with customers as tellers, cashiers and “relationship” bankers. It will become effective in November.

The move is yet another sign that companies across a wide spectrum of industries feel compelled to either hand out raises to retain workers who have toiled long and hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, or to attract new workers as the economy rebounds and expands.

Big hiring pushes are under way by other companies in other industries operating in South Florida. Many large retail chains such as Amazon, Best Buy, CVS, Target and Walmart are starting workers at $15 an hour.

For months, millions of eligible workers across the nation have remained on the sidelines as they wait for the pandemic to ease or search for new jobs that pay more or provide a perceived higher degree of workplace safety. The situation has flummoxed politicians and business leaders who are eager to see the nation’s economic recovery gain more traction.

“I think there are various forces at work here,” said William Luther, a labor economist at Florida Atlantic University. “On the one hand we have rising productivity which pushes real wages up over time. We also have inflation that is running a little higher than it has in the past.”

He also suggested that some companies are pushing the wage envelope as a competitive weapon against industry rivals.

The latter factor may the case for PNC Bank, a Pittsburgh-based institution that now has 66 branches in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The bank just opened a branch on Brickell Avenue in Miami’s financial district and intends to open three more in Miami-Dade County through the spring, a spokeswoman said.

“They’re a bank that’s making a big play to get into South Florida,” said Ken Thomas, founder and CEO of Community Development Fund Advisors in Miami.

“They realize they need to be in South Florida,” he said. “You’re also sending a message to the public that we’re willing to pay you.”

PNC Bank is the latest large U.S. financial services company to increase wages in a bid to keep and attract employees.

PNC Bank is the latest large U.S. financial services company to increase wages in a bid to keep and attract employees. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Industrywide, a boost in labor costs does not appear to be much of a heavy lift for most banks operating in the state.

Florida ranks dead last — 50th out of 50 states — in banking job salaries, according to ZipRecruiter, the online job search site. Based on data supplied by ADP, the payroll company, ZipRecruiter places the average salary for banking workers in Florida at $40,535, or $19.49 an hour. The national average is $53,081.

Cressman Bronson, regional president for South Florida, acknowledged by phone on Monday that the industry is “conservative” when it comes to salaries.

But he said the hourly pay raise to $18 from $15 places PNC among the “top two or three banks in the country.” Citing industry figures, he said Bank of America is at $20 [with a goal of $25 by 2025]. J.P. Morgan Chase Is paying $16.50, while Wells Fargo is paying $15.

“It keeps employees engaged,” Bronson said of the raise in pay. “Banks with stable balance sheets are able to do this. I don’t know that everybody is in the same financial position to have this for their employees.”

Still, the boost to $18 an hour, or $36,000 a year, falls below the state average for annual salaries in banking, noted Luther, the FAU economist.

“That’s somewhat less than the median income in the U.S.,” he said. “And that doesn’t strike me as being unreasonable for a bank teller. The question I would be asking is whether or not they’re paying their janitorial staffs as employees or if they are contracting to an outside firm. In some places I would imagine $18 is a relatively high wage for a very low skilled job like a janitorial job.”

Despite those companies’ efforts to highlight raises in their starting pay, the salary levels are also below the median U.S. income. So many are offering signing bonuses.

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AT&T is seeking more than 100 retail salespeople in Florida between now and year’s end, as well as 500 people to staff call center and technical jobs. The company is offering $1,000 signing bonuses. No immediate starting salary figures were available.

Allied Universal, a California-based security contractor, said Monday it is looking for more than 150 people to serve as security guards at Port Everglades and PortMiami.

“We are growing and expanding. As businesses reopen, our clients are requesting additional security professionals to help safeguard their employees and assets,” said recruiter Johnny Stephens in a statement.

The starting pay: $12 an hour with a $500 signing bonus.

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