This report looks at trends in CEO compensation using two measures of compensation. The first measure includes stock options realized (in addition to salary, bonuses, restricted stock grants, and long-term incentive payouts). By this measure, in 2016 CEOs in America’s largest firms made an average of $15.6 million in compensation, or 271 times the annual average pay of the typical worker. While the 2016 CEO-to-worker compensation ratio of 271-to-1 is down from 299-to-1 in 2014 and 286-to-1 in 2015, it is still light years beyond the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and the 59-to-1 ratio in 1989. The average CEO in a large firm now earns 5.33 times the annual earnings of the average very-high-wage earner (earner in the top 0.1 percent).
Because the decision to realize, or cash in, stock options tends to fluctuate with current and potential stock market trends (since people tend to cash in their stock options when it’s most advantageous for them to do so), we also look at another measure of CEO compensation to get a more complete picture of trends in CEO compensation. This measure tracks the value of stock options granted, reflecting the value of the options at the time they are granted. By this measure, CEO compensation rose to $13.0 million in 2016, up from $12.5 million in 2015.
By either measure CEO compensation is very high relative to the compensation of a typical worker or even that of an earner in the top 0.1 percent, and it has grown far faster than stock prices or corporate profits. The explanation for the falloff in CEO compensation associated with realized stock options is unclear: neither stock prices nor an accumulation of unexercised options provide an explanation. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at CEO pay remains high relative to the pay of typical workers and high-wage earners | Economic Policy Institute