An increase here, a decrease there … let’s just say that compensation last year in the green industry remained relatively stable. Considering the ups and downs of an unsettled economy, that’s progress.

“Doing more with less” seems to be the mantra for all businesses these days, whether we’re talking about manufacturing, the service sector or the green industry. “Times are changing,” wrote one respondent to American Nurseryman’s annual wage and benefits survey. “We are forced to offer less in benefits and salary than we used to.”

Many have used the term, “the new normal,” and many are tired of hearing that. Times have changed, to be sure, and the hardy individuals who comprise the green industry are adapting and finding new ways to stay in business. Some are diversifying; some are growing lean and mean. And in the face of an ever-challenging labor market, one company found an innovative way to keep the business going: “We are a small, U-pick berry farm that employs horticulture students from the local community college. I do the sales at Farmers Markets and my wife handles sales at the fields. Our students are paid the same wage that they would receive from the college as ‘work study’ employees at the college, which we feel is fair considering the experience they will be able to include on their resumes.”

Despite the comments about scaling back, hourly wages appeared to increase slightly for full time as well as part time and seasonal personnel: As compared to 2010 data, more companies were able to offer raises – some in the range of 16% or more. Conversely, those companies reporting a decrease in wages were evenly split between a reduction of 1 to 5% and 6 to 10%.

In terms of benefits, it appears the number of companies offering major medical to full time personnel has increased slightly; paid vacations and paid holidays saw a subtle uptick, as well. Annual bonuses also increased, reflecting the culture of rewarding employees when the company prospers. Seems like a good sign, doesn’t it?

Data from American Nurseryman’s Wage & Benefits survey for 2011 follow in an easy-to-access, graphic presentation. (click here)