Workers in the United States will see median pay hikes of 2.5 percent in 2010, the lowest annual increase in the last decade, the Hay Group, a Philadelphia consulting firm, reported today.

The forecast also is down from a projected median increase of 3.0 percent made by Hay in July. The median is the middle point, with an equal number above and below that level.

After factoring in the consumer price index growth forecast for 2010 at 1.8 percent, the pay increase next year will amount to a "real" gain of 0.7 percent, Hay said in today's report.

"While these increases are greater than the 1.9 percent that employees actually received in 2009, the market is still tempering its outlook for 2010," said Mel Stark, a Hay vice president.

He noted that about a quarter of the employers surveyed had lowered their budgeted pay raises for next year since July.

Raises in base pay were strongest in the energy, financial services and life sciences industry, and they were less in health care, health insurance and at industrial companies, the report said.    - Paul Schweizer