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Start the decade with -- a raise!

Start the decade with -- a raise!

South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Yellowbrix

I made the spokeswoman repeat it three times before I really heard it: The HR consulting firm Mercer says 86 percent of employers plan to give pay raises next year.

In the face of higher-than-10 percent unemployment and continuing job losses, really, employers want to do what? I asked again and again.

A raise? I’d be happy to report about people just getting a job. Although the economists I’ve spoken to don’t expect payrolls to grow for at least the first six months and perhaps longer in some states. Even last week, Gallup said its surveys show one out of four employers nationwide is letting people go.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm, says we’re going to see in the new year that things are getting better, because right now companies are actually trimming fewer jobs. The number of planned layoffs has declined all year.

So things might get better sooner than economists expect.

But back to that raise.

Wages, nationwide, have fallen sharply in this recession, largely because so many people have lost jobs. Overall, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that wages in the third quarter were 3.6 percent lower than in the same period of 2009.

But for those who held on to their jobs, some did get an increase in pay.

Mercer says last year, 70 percent of employers gave out pay raises, while 30 percent froze pay.

This coming year, 4 percent plan to freeze pay across the board.

For the rest, the average expected pay increase is 2.7 percent. That’s less than what Mercer says were raises of 3.9 percent in 2009.

Mercer’s survey was based on a poll of more than 350 employers in November.

If the average pay raise does happen, it would be a small but real help to wage earners.

The raise would be slightly more than inflation, which is expected to rumble along at 2.1 percent next year, according to the consensus forecast of top economists polled by Blue Chip Economic Indicators.

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