Fewer American workers expecting holiday bonuses, raises

WASHINGTON — The holiday bonus looks to be going the way of the three-martini lunch.

A new survey released by Bankrate.com finds that only 22 percent of employed Americans expect a bonus this year, while only 12 percent are anticipating a raise.

It’s all a part of the slow wage growth that has continued to plague the U.S. economy, Josh Bivens, of the Economic Policy Institute, tells Bankrate.

“The headline unemployment rate is a notably rosier indicator than lots of other measures of labor market slack, including the really slow pace of wage growth the last 5 to 6 years,” he says.

“I still see a labor force that seems really cowed, that seems to think the economy is really fragile and is not at all confident that they would be able to find something like an equivalent job if they lost the one they have now.”

Bankrate.com analyst Mike Cetera says most workers don’t expect Santa to deliver a higher paycheck in their Christmas stocking and that’s keeping wage growth slow.

“Most employers have been feeling rather Scrooge-like ever since the Great Recession. It doesn’t seem like that’s going to change anytime soon,” Cetera says.

Those who do think they’ll get a raise or a bonus this year, a plurality (35 percent) say they’ll bolster their savings with the money. Paying down debt came second, at 22 percent; paying bills came in at 19 percent.

The survey says that workers in the Northeast are most likely to be getting a holiday bump, at 35 percent, followed by 27 percent of Midwesterners and 22 percent of Southerners and Westerners. Twenty-nine percent of men expected a bonus or raise, compared with 22 percent of women.

And the thing the workers surveyed most want for 2016? Perhaps not surprisingly, more money. That’s what 39 percent say they want, followed by better health by health insurance (18 percent), a better work/life balance (16 percent), a new job (10 percent) and more vacation time (9 percent).

“That doesn’t surprise me,” says Michael Ettlinger, the founding director of the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire at Durham.

“The advantage of a pay raise over the other options is that you can, to some extent, buy your way out of the other things. It’s just the most concrete option.”

The survey was conducted earlier this month with a sample of 1,000 adults in the continental U.S.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up