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Pay raise in 2012? Americans can expect 3%

American workers will get some extra padding on their salaries and wages this year -- but the median 3% pay raise won’t do much in the face of inflation.

Executives, managers, supervisors and clerks will all fall in the mid-range for salary increases, according to a report from management consulting firm Hay Group. Nursing employees will get slightly less, while oil and gas industry workers can expect a roughly 4% boost.

Pay raises between 3.5% and 4% were common before the recession, but in a shaky recovery characterized by weak business confidence, employers are now leery of unwieldy payrolls.

Fewer than four in 10 businesses say their sales are rising, down from 60% in April, according to the National Assn. for Business Economics.

As of May, with 12.7 million people unemployed in the U.S., about 3.5 job seekers were fighting for each open position. In such a position of power, bosses are better able to withhold pay raises without fear of losing talent.

The small increases that they do dole out likely won’t go far beyond helping workers maintain their current lifestyles.

Sluggish growth nationwide has helped keep inflation in check, but not enough to keep consumer prices from rising 1.7% over the past year, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The cost of food alone is up 2.7%; clothing costs 2.3% more.


Fewer businesses plan to hire as more firms say sales are falling

Gas prices keep inflation tame, push confidence to four-year high

Job openings tick up, but high unemployment predicted through 2013

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