A survey performed by ClearanceJobs.com found that employee base wages have decreased slightly since 2014, Federal News Radio reported recently.

Median base pay went from $72,000 in 2014 to $70,000 in 2017, representing a 2.78 percent decline, according to the 2017 ClearanceJobs® Compensation Survey. However, median total compensation was unchanged at $80,000.

“Average total compensation is down 1.27 percent overall since 2014, the last time ClearanceJobs … conducted a salary survey,” according to a press release.

Factors that contributed to the decline include a declining workforce of security clearance holders since 2013, and longer processing times for new employees applying for clearance, Federal News Radio reported. The number of security clearance holders has decreased by 30 percent in the past four years. Longer processing times have contributed to the clearance backlog of 570,000 pending clearance awards, as well as the increase in posted jobs on ClearanceJobs.com from 6,000 to 20,000.

“Two market trends support salary stagnation in the defense market today: the continued prevalence of Lowest Price Technically Acceptable contract awards, and a shift in the demographic makeup of the cleared candidate workforce,” the survey report stated.

The survey also revealed that the number of lower level secret security clearance holders has increased by 1 percent in the past four years, and the number of top-secret clearance holders has decreased by 5 percent. The higher level of clearance an employee has, typically the higher the salary.

“These numbers really highlight the challenges facing recruiters and hiring managers in the cleared space,” said Evan Lesser, founder and president of ClearanceJobs.com. “We have a very strong commercial sector and a still struggling defense sector. While there are still high-paying jobs, the competition for those professionals is incredibly strong.”

The two industries that pay the highest are engineering, with an average total compensation of about $96,000 annually, and information technology, with a $94,000 average salary. The job categories with the highest pay rates are systems engineering, which boasts an average total compensation of nearly $119,000, and IT-software, with an average total compensation of nearly $117,000.

About the Survey

The 2017 ClearanceJobs Compensation Report was administered online between Dec. 9, 2016 and Jan. 30, 2017. To be eligible to take part in the survey, participants were required to have a current, active federal security clearance and be currently employed. The survey included 21,823 usable responses.