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The incredible shrinking pay raise: Wages can't keep up with inflation

Pay raises are getting smaller, but consumer prices continue to rise. If the trend in shrinking worker pay raises continues, it could mean stalled consumer spending and a halt to economic growth.

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Clearly, the wage picture hasn't thrilled employees, either. In a survey released in April, Glassdoor.com, an online jobs and career community based in Sausalito, Calif., found that less than half of respondents – 43 percent – were expecting a raise in the next 12 months, compared with more than 38 percent who weren't.

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Less than 50 percent optimism "isn't good news," says Rusty Rueff, a director at Glassdoor.com, but it was the first time since 2008 that the optimists had outweighed the pessimists. When it comes to raises, employees "are still under water, but there might be a chance to put our head up soon," he adds.

So how can employees get a pay hike in these hard times? Part of the challenge, some experts say, is to prepare in advance of your performance review or request for a pay raise. Understand both the financial condition of your employer and how you've contributed to the organization. Then, proceed to ask in a confident manner for the pay hike you want.

To ease the sometimes tricky process, Salary.com, a career-management website based in Waltham, Mass., that offers salary information for various industries, provides several tips:

Don't be afraid to ask for a raise, especially during a performance review.

Provide a list of your accomplishments over the past year when broaching the subject of a raise, and show how this record of achievement relates to the amount of increased compensation you're seeking.

Be specific: Cite a dollar amount of base pay increase and bonus that you feel you deserve.

If you don't get the base pay hike you want, ask if you can make up the difference with some other concession, such as company stock or added vacation time. If the increase involves a bonus based on performance goals, ask if you can be re-reviewed, say, in six months.

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