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The Santa Index 2012: St. Nick's Efforts Worth About $135,000 This Year

From tracking who's naughty and who's nice to running the world's largest toy workshop and delivery service, Santa wears many stocking caps.

He's manufacturing executive, sleigh driver, letter reader, list double-checker, reindeer tender, distributor and more.

All told he should be earning $134,944 this year, according to our analysis of wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's up 1.5 percent from last year's Santa Index of $132,950.

Determining how much it would cost to replace someone's income -- or the unpaid work a person does for a family -- is an important step in deciding how much life insurance to buy.

Of course no one could replace Santa -- nor will the world ever need to. Nonetheless here are some of the tasks we considered when compiling this year's Santa Index.

  • Industrial engineer. Making toys might sound like fun and games, but it's not child's play. As an industrial engineer running the North Pole workshop, Santa supervises the design, development and testing of every gadget and trinket the elves produce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job includes quality and inventory control, cost analysis, logistics, and management of human -- er, elf, -- work factors. Annual earnings for eight hours a day every day: $111,792.
  • Labor relations specialist. Elves are a merry bunch, but that doesn't mean disputes don't erupt. Coordinating grievance procedures, handling complaints and resolving disagreements are all part of Santa's job. We figure he spends at least half an hour a day dealing with elf labor issues. Annual earnings: $5,167.
  • Correspondence clerk. The millions of letters from children can't go unread. Fortunately Santa is a speed-reader. An hour a day as a correspondence clerk for 100 days a year would earn him $1,656.
  • Professional shopper. Think of the nightmare on Christmas morning if Santa didn't carefully select who should get which toy. Susie would get the pair of skates, and Johnny would get the sled. Poor Nelly would get a storybook she's already read. Eight hours a day 15 days a year spent selecting presents would yield $2,303.
  • Rancher. Reindeer don't just take care of themselves. Santa feeds and cleans up after the herd, supervises reindeer games and steps in when name-calling gets out of hand. Annual earnings for one hour a day every day: $4,234.
  • Private investigator. Seeing you sleeping, knowing when you're awake, tracking the naughty and nice: normally that would be a 24/7 operation. If he squeezes in an hour a day for sleuthing in the month leading up to Christmas, the annual earnings would be $701.
  • Accounting clerk. Making lists and checking them twice an hour a day one month before Christmas would bring in $401.
  • Shipping and receiving clerk. The miracle of singlehandedly distributing toys to every boy and girl overnight earns Santa a grand total of $146.50. Beat that Federal Express.
  • Pilot. Guided only by the red glow of a reindeer nose, Santa drives his sleigh through the foggy night air and performs millions of rooftop takeoffs and landings. Average earnings for an airline pilot for 10 hours: $568.

Although carefully calculated, our Santa Index has one limitation. Nowhere in the federal labor data is a wage statistic for holiday magic making. That, dear readers, is priceless.

The Santa Index 2012: Earnings details

Santa's job BLS occupation used Hours per day Days per year Mean hourly
Annual earnings
Manufacturing executive (workshop) Industrial Engineers 8 364 $38.39 $111,792
Professional shopper Sales and Related Workers 8 15 $19.19 $2,303
Wrapper Packers and Packagers, Hand 12 14 $10.81 $1,816
Labor negotiator (with elves) Labor Relations Specialists 0.5 365 $28.31 $5,167
Letter reader Correspondence Clerks 1 100 $17.04 $1,656
Company representative in mall Customer Service Representatives 8 21 $15.92 $2,675
Investigator (knows if you've been good or bad) Private Detectives and Investigators 1 30 $23.37 $701
List checker (checking it twice)  Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks 1 30 $13.38 $401
Taking care of reindeer
Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals
1 365 $11.60 $4,234
Snow plow driver Highway Maintenance Workers 0.5 360 $17.47 $3,145
Pilot Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineer 10 1 $56.76 $568
Going down chimneys (chimney sweep) Building Cleaning Workers 10 1 $13.89 $139
Cookie & milk taster Agricultural Inspectors 10 1 $20.25 $203
Deliveries via sleigh (distributor) Shipping, Receiving, and Traffic Clerks 10 1 $14.65 $147
Announcer ("Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!") Public Address System and Other Announcers 0.01 1 $19.17 19 cents

Total: $134,944

Wage source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Santa's life insurance rates are out of this world

If Santa went shopping for life insurance, the rates might make him cry and pout.

Sorry, Virginia, but Santa is one risky customer.

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