Most Americans have gone years without a raise: survey

The average American employee hasn’t received a raise in three years, a new survey says, a grim finding for Labor Day weekend.

Labor Day, inaugurated in the late 1800s, is meant to celebrate the contributions of American workers. It is, in a sense, a holiday created to give us a holiday.

But a newly released OnePoll survey of 2,000 American adults finds ennui in the workplace.

The poll asked workers when they last received a pay raise. The responses were stark. Only 4 percent said they had received a raise this year, 9 percent said they reaped a raise one year ago, 22 percent said it had been two years and 37 percent said it had been three.

Average it out, and the typical worker in the survey hasn’t received a raise in 2.9 years.

In the spirit of Labor Day, pollsters asked workers if they feel recognized at work. Of the 1,859 respondents with jobs, only 37 percent said they feel “very recognized” at work. A larger share, 46 percent, said they feel only “somewhat” recognized, and 8 percent said they don’t feel recognized at all.

A majority of workers said they believe gender influenced their salary, mirroring the lingering gender gap in American pay.

Asked to name their top concerns about the current workforce, workers identified “salary cuts” as their biggest fear, followed by wage gaps and worker strikes. Generation X and baby boomer respondents cited particular concerns about job security.

Salary woes are widespread in the current economy. Real wages for American workers, adjusted for inflation, are lower now than at the start of 2020, according to Federal Reserve data.

The big drag on inflation-adjusted earnings is inflation itself. The Consumer Price Index rose by 8 percent in 2022 and by nearly 5 percent in 2021, making everyone feel that much poorer.

The history of Labor Day is, of course, intertwined with the story of the American labor movement. Attitudes about labor and unions have shifted over the years.

Gallup pollsters found that 71 percent of Americans voiced approval of labor unions in 2022, the highest mark recorded since the mid-1960s. Approval slipped to 67 percent in 2023.

Emblematic of those sympathies, 72 percent of respondents in the latest Gallup poll said they side with the television and film writers who went on strike this spring over concerns with pay and streaming content. Only 19 percent side with the studios.

Americans may like unions, but few of us belong to one. Union membership declined to 10.1 percent in 2022, the lowest quotient on record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the OnePoll survey, 49 percent of respondents said they believe a strike is an effective way to pressure bosses for improved work conditions and pay. Two-fifths of workers said they had participated in a strike at some point in their careers.

When pollsters asked workers whether they would be in the same job by next Labor Day, only 26 percent said that scenario was “very likely.”

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