Employers Plan to Lift Wages in 2022

The expected pay hikes could spell higher consumer prices and increase inflation.

December 08, 2021

Counting Cash

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—U.S. companies are planning to use an average of 3.9% of total payroll for wage increases next year, which is the most since 2008, reports the Wall Street Journal. The amount is according to a survey by the Conference Board, which also found that companies are planning on raising salary ranges, which would result in higher minimum, median and maximum salaries.

A raise in salaries could contribute to higher consumer prices and increase inflation, economists say. Roughly 39% of respondents to the survey said inflation factored into their decision to set aside funds for wage increases next year.

“The impacts of wages on inflation and of inflation on wages are now stronger than they have been in recent decades,” Gad Levanon, chief economist at the Conference Board told the Journal.

Convenience retailers also are increasing their minimum wages and bonuses. York, Pennsylvania-based Rutter’s raised its minimum wage to $16 an hour. Sheetz also raised its starting pay this year. Some 7-Eleven locations are currently offering $500 new hire bonuses, and select GPM Investments c-stores are offering $2,500 sign-on bonuses. In 2020, the average full-time associate starting wage at a convenience store was $11.89 an hour, which was up 40.5% in the past 10 years, according to the NACS State of the Industry Compensation Report® of 2020 Data.

Tyson Foods said it plans to spend roughly $50 million on year-end bonuses for over 80,000 hourly workers at its meatpacking plants, which translates to a bonus of $300-$700 per employee. The bonuses are on top of wage increases the company implemented over this past year and a $200 bonus it paid employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Economists are unsure how long the high levels of inflation will last. The Federal Reserve isn’t certain how inflation will play out in 2022, which is a shift in viewpoint than previously when the Fed said inflation would be temporary as the economy adjusted to supply-chain disruptions and labor shortage.

“It now appears that factors pushing inflation upward will linger well into next year,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in congressional testimony last week.

There are currently more job openings in the U.S.—about 11 million—than unemployed people who say they are looking for work—about 6.9 million, according to a ZipRecruiter survey.

The labor shortage appears likely to persist, as many unemployed Americans are not eager to rejoin the workforce, which does not bode well for the current labor shortage. Fifty-three percent of Americans who became unemployed during the pandemic said they were only somewhat active or not very active at all in looking for work, according to a poll by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, 56% said they continue to be unemployed for more than six months before it becomes essential to return to full-time work. Eleven percent said it will be more than a year before it is necessary to return to work, and 15% said it will never be essential.

Convenience retailers, however, continue to be attractive places to work and offer more for employees than competitive wages. Pennsylvania-based Sheetz was recently listed as a Best Place for Parents to Work by Great Place to Work. Sheetz employees say: “Sheetz leaders work hard to connect with employees. They are approachable and put themselves in our shoes in order to make decisions that will benefit all team members. Sheetz always goes the extra mile to be unique and help employees find balance.” In September, Sheetz was recognized on Fortune Magazine’s list of 75 Best Large Workplaces for Women. Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s was recognized for gender parity—women make up half of the convenience retailer’s board of directors. The Hershey Company was recently recognized as the No. 1 top female-friendly company by Forbes Magazine.