U.S. salary budgets projected to rise 3.1% in 2014
Budgets for pay raises at U.S. employers have picked up from all-time lows, going from an average (mean) of 2.2 percent in 2009 to 2.9 percent in 2013, according to the 40th annual WorldatWork 2013-2014 Salary Budget Survey. U.S. salary budgets have averaged 2.8 percent for the past two years.
But pay budgets are showing signs of improvement. Forecasts indicate the average raise in base pay for 2014 in the U.S. will be 3.1 percent, which, if achieved, would be the first average increase above 3 percent since 2008.
“Salary budgets continue to improve, albeit slowly,” said Kerry Chou, CCP, senior compensation practice leader at WorldatWork, in a video posted on the organization’s website. The data “adds to the recently released jobs numbers painting an economic picture that shows the U.S. economy is not gaining much momentum,” he commented. However, this year’s increases “compare quite favorable” to the 1.1 percent rise in the consumer price index (CPI), Chou added. “The good news for employees is that the purchasing power of their increases is going farther than in past years.”
Survey data were collected in April 2013 from WorldatWork members employed in the HR, compensation and benefits departments of mostly large U.S. companies. Key findings are noted below.
Major Metropolitan Area Data
Companies located in or reporting data for employees in Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco reported the highest actual salary budget increases in 2013, averaging 3.1 percent. Employers in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit and Phoenix reported the lowest overall, at 2.8 percent. “It’s encouraging that the difference between the lowest and highest [metro areas’ salary budget increases] is not very great,” Chou noted.
Most metropolitan areas reported average salary budget increases ranging from 2.8 percent to 3.1 percent for 2013, up slightly from 2.7 percent to 2.9 percent in 2012.
Budgets for pay raises for public administration workers hit an all-time low of 1.3 percent in 2010 and 2011 but have risen to 2.3 percent this year. The mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries are far above national figures in 2013, with average increases of 4.1 percent.
Number of Months Between Increases
In 2009, during the recession, many employers froze pay. In 2013 the average time between raises held steady at 12 months, “which is what we would expect in a normal economy,” Chou said. “Just two or three years ago we were seeing [the period between increases] as high as 18 to 24 months; so we’ve seen significant improvement.”
With tepid salary budgets, “organizations continue to be challenged in finding meaningful ways beyond 3 percent raises to reward talent,” Chou observed. Survey respondents from U.S. companies are focusing on:
Variable pay. Depending on employee category, 81 percent to 91 percent of eligible U.S. workers received variable pay (annual bonuses for goal achievement) in 2012. For officers/executives, 94 percent were eligible for variable pay in 2012, though only 91 percent received it in 2013.
Other bonuses. Organizations are using other forms of cash and noncash forms of compensation, including sign-on/hiring bonuses, spot bonuses, retention bonuses and project-completion bonuses.
More frequent adjustments. “Off cycle” adjustments to base salaries outside of the normal periodic (merit) increase period have increased substantially, occurring at 72 percent of organizations in 2013, compared with just 35 percent in 2010.
Increased differentiation based on performance. In 2013, high performers can expect an average pay boost of 4.1 percent, while middle performers will get a mere 2.7 percent increase (a 152 percent difference). “We see this trend continuing,” said Chou, adding he would like to see the percent difference go even higher in the future.
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
NRF laments slowing sales growth
Retail sales increased in the month of August but came in at a much slower pace than anticipated by the National Retail Federation (NRF).
August retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.1% seasonally adjusted from last month, and increased 3.9% unadjusted year-over-year.
“Slow growth continues to be the economic story five years after the financial crisis,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “The economy, employment, wages, and retail sales continue to stagger along. Retailers and consumers are resilient but not overly optimistic about the broader economy. While positive retail sales growth continues month-after-month, it is just not strong enough to move the needle.”
August retail sales, released Friday by the U.S. Census Bureau, showed adjusted sales for building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (NAICS 444) were at $26.23 million for August, down from July’s $26.48 million. All in all, the category suffered the greatest monthly decline at 0.9%.
“Retail sales gains continue to be tepid,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Retail sales and employment, while measurably positive, have been disappointing over the last few months, and have been difficult to reconcile with consumer confidence. The data suggests that consumers remain cautious with their pocketbooks and purchases. This month’s weak retail sales report will continue to put pressure on policymakers, who are dealing with tapering, and retailers, who will need to focus on price and value to entice consumer spending.”