Personal Finance

6 in 10 workers didn't get a raise or a better job in 2018, survey finds

Key Points
  • Some 62 percent of people polled by said they didn’t get a bump in their salary or a better-paying gig this year.
  • Employers project they will increase pay for nonmanagement personnel by 3.1 percent in 2019, according to Willis Towers Watson.
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Here's a worthwhile resolution for the new year: Ask your boss for a raise.

More than 60 percent of workers said they did not get an increase in their pay in 2018, nor did they seek a better-paying job, according to a poll from

The personal finance website polled 1,000 individuals by phone in November.

Only about a third of participating workers said that they saw their compensation rise in 2018.

% of Working Americans Who: 2017 2018
Received a pay raise38%32%
Got a better paying job18%11%
Did not receive a pay raise or get a better paying job52%62%
Received a pay raise and got a better paying job8%5%

"We have a labor market that is getting tighter, and pay raises, and better-paying jobs are the exception rather than the rule," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for

Here's what's keeping workers from pushing for extra bucks.

Strong hiring

The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent for the third consecutive month in November, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Though the economy continues to add jobs, it appears that many workers are willing to make do with a lower salary in the meantime.

Only a quarter of the participants in the study said they would search for a new gig in 2019.

"People might feel they wouldn't be able to find a new job or they expect the current employer will deliver that pay raise or promotion," McBride said. "Some people are content with where they are, even if they aren't being paid what they think they should be."

Ask for more money

If you're going to stay put in 2019, you may as well push for a higher salary.

"Employers are more selective about pay and pay increases, focusing more on merit-based increases for employees who are taking more responsibility," said McBride.

Companies plan to grant nonmanagement employees an average increase of about 3.1 percent for 2018 and 2019, according to Willis Towers Watson.

The benefits consultancy polled 814 employers from April through July.

The real money is in getting a raise tied to your performance: Companies granted average salary increases of 4.7 percent to their top nonmanagement workers in 2018, Willis Towers Watson found.

Stand out in 2019

If you're planning on pushing for a bump in pay next year, start with an appraisal of yourself.

Here's what you should consider:

Burnish your credentials: A new certificate or skill set might be what you need to stand above the competition and position yourself for a raise.

"In a tight labor market, those who are in the best position to command a higher pay rate or find a better job are those who possess unique talents, skills or certifications that employers crave," McBride said.

"If you can't distinguish yourself, it's not an environment where you'll be able to earn a pay premium," he said.

Know your worth: How do you compare with other individuals who have similar responsibilities and skill sets? Pull up salary comparison data on employment sites, including and, and be ready to bring this information to the negotiation table.

"Understand your value in the market — that's something you can be armed with when you have your pay discussions," said Adrienne Altman, the North America rewards practice leader at Willis Towers Watson.

Make your accomplishments known: Whether you've helped your department reach certain sales goals or you've taken on extra work over the course of 2018, be sure to clearly state the goals you've managed to reach.

"I think what employees can do is focus on how they articulate to their managers how they've performed this year and what they can quantify in terms of value to the organization," Altman said.

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