REPORT: The State of U.S. Salaries and Raises

Pay is a sensitive subject for employers and employees alike. But finding a happy medium between what job seekers want and what employers want to pay is vital to both talent attraction and retention.

In spite of the current low unemployment rate, overall wage growth is expected to be slow in 2019. Salary budgets are projected to grow by just 3.2%, a slight uptick over 2018’s 3.1% increase. With the current inflation rate estimated at 1.6%, that means a wage increase barely proportionate to the rising cost of living.

To learn more about how workers feel about their salaries — and whether they plan to ask for a raise this year — Indeed surveyed 1,000 U.S. employees. What did we find? Workers want more, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be all about dollars and cents.

Most workers need more money to be comfortable

Most of our respondents would certainly like to have more money — only 18% say their lives are “comfortable” with their current salaries. A majority (61%) say they would need at least $6,000 more to be truly “comfortable.” These numbers are virtually identical to last year, when 19% of respondents reported being “comfortable” and 60% said they needed a $6,000 boost.

Despite feeling they need to earn more, most respondents (75%) say they received a “change in pay” within the last two years, with 40% of respondents receiving one in the past year.

The discomfort with current salary levels may come from the fact that raises are on the low end: of respondents who got them, most (85%) report a raise of 6% or less, with 44% receiving 3% or less. And men are getting higher raises than women: the largest proportion of men (45%) report a 4% to 6% increase, whereas most women report a raise of 3% or less (48%).

However, most respondents aren’t surprised by these moderate raises: 53% say their raise was exactly what they expected. One-quarter of respondents say they received less than expected, and 15% say their raise was higher than their projection. Another 8% say they hadn’t expected a raise at all.

Half of workers will ask for a raise in 2019

Respondents are split when it comes to asking for a raise in 2019. One-quarter say they will “definitely” ask for a raise, and 26% say asking for a raise is a possibility. Almost half (48%) say they do not plan on asking for a raise this year, but more than one-quarter (27%) of these respondents say it’s because they already received a pay raise.

Half of the women (50%) we surveyed say they plan to ask for more money, compared to 56% of men — contradicting a recent survey of Australian workers that finds women ask for raises as often as men. Interestingly, the gender disparity in asking for raises is a new finding — last year, equal percentages of women and men (53%) reported asking for more.

Older employees are less likely to ask for a raise than younger ones, with only 17% of workers age 55 and over saying they “definitely” plan on asking, versus 36% of workers age 25 to 34.

Of those looking to up their salary, a majority (52%) plan on asking for a 5% increase or less….

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