Last year, not surprisingly, was the best year ever for brokers.

Median production for retail brokers was a record $303,366 in 1997, and median W-2 earnings hit an all-time high of $119,010, according to data from the Securities Industry Association (SIA).

The SIA numbers are based on information supplied by 50 participating member firms that collectively employ 52,000 reps.

Average gross production for retail reps was $387,583, and average W-2 earnings rose to $158,201, according to the SIA survey.

Branch managers did well, too. Median compensation for producing managers was $240,344 with an average of $275,549.

The number of producing reps employed by NYSE-member firms rose 10% between 1996 and 1997 to 116,000.

Other survey highlights:

The size of the average retail branch remained the same between 1996 and 1997, with 14.8 registered reps, 5.9 sales assistants and $5.2 million in gross.

The median payout was 37%; the average payout 38.6%.

Average agency ticket size was $148.59.

Almost half (46.9%)

of the reps working for participating firms had been in the industry 10 or more years.

Registered rep turnover was 11.5%, and the average length of time reps had spent working at their current firm was 7.4 years.

Average out-of-pocket training costs were $28,614.

The SIAs report is available for purchase. Contact Steve Carlson at 212/618-0572, or scarlson@sia.com.