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Typical job switcher got a pay raise of nearly 10%, study finds

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Many workers who changed jobs recently saw raises from their new paychecks outpace inflation by a wide margin — by nearly 10% or more, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

The typical American who changed employers in the year from April 2021 to March 2022 got a 9.7% bump in their “real” wages over a year earlier, according to Pew, a nonpartisan research organization, which analyzed federal labor data.

“Real” wages measure the change in a worker’s pay after accounting for inflation, which in June was at its highest level in more than 40 years.

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The figure cited by Pew represents the median, meaning half of workers who switched jobs got a net pay increase of 9.7% or more. The other half of job switchers got a smaller net raise or saw their net earnings decline.

Workers have been leaving their jobs at elevated rates since early 2021 in a trend known as the Great Resignation. Demand for workers boomed as the U.S. economy reopened broadly from its pandemic-era hibernation, leading businesses to compete by raising pay.

Workers who switched jobs reaped more of a financial benefit than those who stayed with their employer, Pew found. The median worker who remained at the same job from April 2021 to March 2022 saw their earnings fall by 1.7% after accounting for inflation, according to the study.

The dynamic of higher wage growth for job switchers relative to other workers was typical even before the Covid pandemic, but it’s likely stronger in the current labor market given how rapidly wages are rising, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor.

“Workers have the most leverage when they go out and switch jobs and find another employer willing to reset their pay to the market level,” Zhao said.

Employers don’t have as much incentive to give big raises to employees who remain in their current roles, because they’re implying a willingness to stay put for their current pay, Zhao said. And employers generally give raises just once a year; someone who finds new employment essentially get an extra raise, he said.

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