Though the economy is much improved from the lows of the recession, it doesn’t seem that way to the long-term unemployed and people who aren’t moving forward in their jobs. The majority of Americans had the same or lower wages in 2013 as they did in 2012, and many expect the same this year, according to a survey by financial website MoneyRates.com.
The survey of 1,200 American adults found that 56% of respondents did not get a raise in 2013, and 12% of those people had their pay cut. More than half expect stagnating pay or a cut in 2014.
What’s more, even the workers who got a bump in pay didn’t get much. Of those respondents who reported getting a raise last year, the majority (57%) got an increase of just 3% or less.
According to MoneyRates Senior Financial Analyst Richard Barrington, there are two major reasons why most workers’ paychecks are flat or barely growing: a weak job market and low inflation.
“The labour market is still quite slack,” Barrington says, “leaving most employees in a weak bargaining position. This slackness can be seen in the fact that the unemployment rate is still quite high at 6.7%, and also in the trend away from good-paying manufacturing jobs and toward lower-paying service jobs.”
The unemployment rate is down from its highest points but still quite high given how long the economy has been recovering.
On the bright side, low inflation has some benefit: Wages are slow to rise, but so is the cost of living.
“This, I suppose is what counts as a blessing in today’s economy — low inflation means that with meager pay increases workers are more or less treading water,” Barrington says. “But at least they aren’t going backward.”
Pay raises are incredibly important for long-term financial health; not getting them could cost the earner $US1 million over the course of their career. Especially in a weak economy, raises often need to be pursued rather than assumed.
That means negotiation skills are more important than ever. We recently rounded up some key techniques for getting a higher salary, and among the most effective are using specific rather than round numbers, always making the first offer, and ranking your priorities.