NEW YORK—North American public relations agencies increased their hourly rates in 2014 according to a survey released today by Gould+Partners, the merger and management consulting firm specializing in the PR field.

Based on responses from 104 PR agencies in the US and Canada, billing rates are now averaging $480 an hour for CEOs of agencies with $25 million or more in revenues and $317 among smaller agencies, according to Rick Gould, managing partner and director of the survey.

Productivity—measured by billable time utilization—has been far below optimal levels, Gould says. The survey shows that senior VPs are billing only 61.3 percent of their theoretical yearly capacity of 1,700 hours.  And while some account executives are averaging as high as 95 percent, others are averaging as low as 70 percent. (The average was 89.0 percent, which Gould says is “right on target. The goal for account executives should be at least 90 percent, a goal reached by almost all firms achieving 20 percent profitability.”