In an anemic economy, pay raises for many workers are meant not to improve their standard of living, but simply to maintain it.
U.S. employees in most jobs and industries can expect a median pay raise of roughly 3 percent this year, which is in line with inflation, according to a new survey by Hay Group, a management consulting firm.
Workers won't be able to buy much more with that extra cash, as consumer prices have risen 1.7 percent over the past year, according to the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index.
Mercer, another consulting firm, also found last year that companies planned to give an average pay raise of 3 percent this year, comparable to an average pay raise of nearly 3 percent in 2010 and 2011.
Low pay raises have been the norm since the start of the economic recovery. Between 2009 and 2011, the median pay raise has been roughly 3 percent, according to Hay Group.
In contrast, as recently as 2008, the median pay raise was 3.8 percent, according to Hay Group. The median pay raise hovered between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent between 2000 and 2008.
Even with meager pay raise expectations, there's still an incentive to do good work. Top-performing employees -- roughly 8 percent of the workforce -- will get an average pay raise of 4.4 percent this year, according to Mercer.
Pay raises continue to stay low because it's an employer's market, with one in 12 American workers unemployed. With pay raises low and barely matching inflation, some Americans have been dipping into their savings to try to improve or maintain their standard of living.