Employees hoping for a pay raise in 2016 may be disappointed. The outlook isn't favorable except for the select few who are at the top of the corporate hierarchy or have skills essential to their employer.
Annual raises and cost-of-living increases were common before the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, pay raises have been hard to come by.
Today pay raises are all about results, says Michael Lazarchick, a professional employment counselor in Mays Landing, New Jersey.
"If (the employer) perceives somebody as talented -- doing more and making money for them -- they will pay to get those people, and those people will do well," Lazarchick says. "But the average person? No. They aren't necessarily going to get a pay raise."
Location, location, location
Geography is also a factor, as labor markets differ from one place to another.
Lazarchick cites Atlantic County in New Jersey as an example. There, online gambling has created new competition for local Atlantic City casinos.
"The economy is terrible," he says. "This is not the place to be looking for a pay raise."
Some economic sectors are more likely than others to see employee wages go up. Lazarchick points to energy, real estate, data and telecommunications as industries that offer higher wage opportunities.
Alfred McIntosh, principal at McIntosh Capital Advisors, a financial planning and investment firm in Los Angeles, says most workers won't be offered pay raises until economic activity picks up. The U.S. economy is driven largely by consumer spending.
"We've had a very slow-growing economy, which is not so good because it means you may not get the type of raise you want or need, and you, therefore, won't feel like you're getting ahead or doing better," McIntosh says.
Experts say that as long as labor market conditions favor employers, self-employment might be a better path to a higher income.