ByJohn S. McClenahen U.S. CEOs as well as employees saw the value of their stock option awards decline by more than 40% between 2001 and 2003, according to an annual study by Watson Wyatt Worldwide consultants, Washington, D.C. However, the decline was softened somewhat for CEOs, who benefited from an increase in the value of restricted stock and long-term incentive awards that most employees typically don't receive. Watson Wyatt's 2004-2005 Executive Pay Study surveyed about 1,000 of the largest companies in the United States. The study found that the average value of stock options for non-executive employees dropped 51%, from $4,196 per employee in 2001 to $2,037 per employee in 2003. Additionally, the average number of employee stock options that companies granted during that timeframe declined 30%, from 313 shares per employee in 2001 to 219 in 2003. CEOs saw the value of new stock option awards decline 41%, from $3.4 million in 2001 to $2 million in 2003. However, the value of restricted stock awards increased nearly 70%, and payouts from long-term incentive plans increased more than 50% to help offset the decline. Despite these increases, the average total value of these three pay elements declined roughly one-third--from $4.6 million in 2001 to $3.0 million in 2003.