It's that time of year again. Over the past few weeks, the 2012 salary budget surveys have been coming out. While they show some growth compared to the past couple of years, one of the surveyors, WorldatWork, notes that most of these numbers represent increases that do not match the current inflation rate of 3.1 percent.

Looking at three separate surveys conducted by WorldatWork (2,466 companies), Towers Watson (773 companies) and Mercer (more than 1,200 companies) shows a consistent projection of about 3 percent or less in salary budgets for all positions. Each survey breaks down increases slightly differently so we've included data from each survey below.

Although all three surveyors predict few changes in salary budgeting as long as economic growth is slow and unemployment is high, market forces are still very much in play. Not surprisingly, industries that have a high demand for skilled workers are planning on higher increases. For example, the WorldatWork cited the 4.1 percent average salary increase among companies in the mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction industries that are seeing a shortage of skilled labor.

At the same time, companies continue to differentiate among employee performance levels. According to the Towers Watson survey, employees with the highest performance ratings will see median salary increases of 4.5 percent, while those with average ratings will receive 2.5 percent and those with below-average ratings will receive 1.4 percent.

Total Salary Budget Increases, by Employee Category Average base pay increases by employee group TowersWatson 2011 Salary Budget Survey                              Salary Increases