NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Americans have a long and understandably passionate relationship with their paychecks.
Like most relationships, the one between workers and their paychecks has its ups and downs.
Over the last few years, there have been decidedly more downs than ups, thanks to a weak economy.
That scenario could be changing, though, as employee pay has begun to stabilize, according to research from the Philadelphia-based Hay Group, a global management consulting firm.
The Hay study says that U.S workers can expect a raise, on average, of about 3% this year.
If it seems like goods new, consider that workers will need that raise in an effort to keep up with the rate of inflation, which stands at 3.63% in July, according to InflationData.com.
The slight increase in pay was just a matter of time, Hay researchers say. “With the economy continuing to grow slowly, it is not surprising that salary increases have followed suit,” explains Jeff Blair, Hay Group’s U.S. productized services leader, in a statement. “(But) relatively low annual salary increase budgets are limiting the financial rewards available to employers. As a result, organizations are increasingly focused on improving employee engagement and creating a positive work climate for employees.”
The 3% payroll hike that Hay reports runs across the professional board, from middle managers to executives and file clerks.
Only two industries are outpacing the 3% level, energy and luxury retail. Oil and gas workers can expect a pay raise of 3.3%, and luxury retailers can expect to see an extra 3.6% stashed in their paychecks this year, Hays forecasts.
These industries have built-in insurance policies. The energy sector benefits from critical demand for oil and gas to heat homes and run vehicles. High-end retailers cater to a market, America’s affluent, that has been spared the economic pain inflicted on the middle and lower class since the financial crash.
“Sectors with increases above the general industry median often have more optimistic business performance outlooks,” notes Tom McMullen, Hay Group’s North American reward practices leader. “Some sectors rebounded more quickly and have higher margins than other industries, which may explain why projected base salary increases are higher.”
U.S. workers can only hope that paychecks continue to grow healthier. The higher the pay, the more leverage talented employees have with their companies.
A recent study from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) showed that survey respondents believe the top reason key talent quits is to “get more pay elsewhere.”
With fatter paychecks, especially in select industries like energy and high-end retail, getting more pay elsewhere, or from a current employer, is a stronger possibility.
Now, if only the economy would cooperate, and make that possibility a reality.
For more on careers:
Tried and true rules for getting ahead in your career
More Americans quitting than being laid off
10 ways travel can help you find a job