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Even with higher economic confidence, employers are reining in holiday bonuses: Poll

  • Thirty-nine percent of companies will be awarding a cash bonus this year, according to a new survey from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
  • Fewer companies say they're offering holiday bonuses this year than in 2016.
  • Thirty-five percent of respondents said their companies will be offering no year-end award at all, up 5 percentage points from the prior year.
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AndreyPopov | Getty Images

Stronger corporate profits and increased economic confidence among employers may not translate to an end-of-year cash bonus for workers.

Thirty-nine percent of companies will be awarding a cash bonus this year, according to a new survey from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The new numbers, based on a survey of about 150 human resources executives in October and November, fell from 41 percent who said their companies would award a companywide or performance-based cash bonus last year.

Worse for employees is that 35 percent of respondents said their companies will be offering no year-end award at all. That's 5 percentage points higher than the 2016 figure of 30 percent.

"These results are surprising, given the tight labor market," the firm said in a press release. "Year-end bonuses are a reliable way to attract and retain talent."

Among the remaining pool of employees who can look forward to a year-end bonus, only a small fraction will see a heftier check this year than they did in 2016. Eight percent of employers plan to increase the bonus amount from the prior year, down from 18 percent who reported an increase in the 2016 survey.

Even as 87 percent of employers say that the economy is better or the same as it was last year, 80 percent plan to give the same amount in holiday bonuses that they did in 2016.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in October, and the broader measure that includes discouraged workers dropped sharply to 7.9 percent. The data suggest that Americans are finding more opportunities in the economy, which would normally make employers more competitive to hold on to their workers.

"Employee recognition is becoming increasingly important if companies want to keep their workers," Challenger said.