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Pay hikes higher in Utah

State firms top U.S. average in giving raises

Here's one more reason for workers to come to Utah: Employers in the state are more generous with their pay increases than their counterparts nationwide.

Utah companies set aside 3.7 percent of their 2007 budgets for salary increases, compared to 3.65 nationally, according to a compensation survey released this week by Compdata. And the number was even higher — 3.75 percent — for northern Utah-based companies

Beginning in February, Compdata asked representatives at 105 companies in Utah and Colorado about their plans for pay increases this year and their projections for 2008. Responses covered 126,000 employees in the two states and showed a slight increase over the 3.61 percent set aside in 2006.

The numbers cover only actual salary increases, according to Compdata communications specialist Lane Odle. They do not take into account other measures of compensation, such as health-care benefits.

The annual survey doesn't explore the reasons behind the numbers, but Michael Hanni, an economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said it makes sense that Utah employers would be rewarding their employees more than elsewhere in the nation.

"It does seem to fit in line with the current labor market that we're facing in the state," said Hanni, noting the state's continued job growth and record low unemployment.

"That just creates a really fertile environment for pay raises, for pay increases, to keep current employees and to attract new employees," he said.

Nationally, pay increase budgets have remained relatively level for the past five years, ranging from 3.57 percent in 2003 to 3.65 percent this year. Utah companies have repeatedly had higher figures, with 3.59 in 2003 and this year's 3.7 percent.

Compdata's national projections are for 3.63 percent for 2008. The Utah/Colorado report puts the 2008 figure at 3.67 percent.

Outside expenses have notably slowed down salary increases over the past five years, Odle said. "With health-care costs continuing to increase, it's kind of put a little bit of a hold on salary increases."

In Utah, technology companies reported the highest pay increase budgets, at 4.07 percent. Distribution and warehouse companies set aside the least amount of money for salary increases, at 3.32 percent, according to the survey.

Overall, however, things continue to look good for Utah workers.

"Our market is what it is," Hanni said. "It's just very strong right now and very tight. That creates a lot of pressure on employers to get creative with finding the labor that they need, and usually the one enticement that gets people's attention is wage."