2023 Compensation Budgeting Forecast
Part 1: Base Pay Adjustments

Compensation Budgeting Forecast

2022 has certainly been a topsy-turvy year. Unemployment is at record lows (lowest in 50 years), but inflation has also been its highest (hovering between 8% and 9%). Good news – the data are starting to come in regarding 2023! In this part one of a three-part review of 2023 compensation planning projections, we will share what we have found.

2023 U.S. Economy

There are conflicting predictions coming in regarding 2023. Some are forecasting a major recession and the return of higher unemployment. Others take a more optimistic view and see inflation coming down but unemployment remaining low. The following is the most up to date outlook from the experts that ultimately will have an influence on compensation budgeting for 2023.

Goldman Sachs Analysts Upgrade their 2023 Forecasts (https://www.goldmansachs.com/)

Goldman Sachs updated its own prediction, reporting that a recession is now twice as likely than it had previously forecasted. Earlier this year, the bank estimated that the chance of a recession in the coming year was 15%. Now it’s 30%—and even more likely if you project out another year. Goldman Sachs also downgraded its U.S. GDP estimates below consensus for the next two years to reflect the drag on the economy. “The Fed has front-loaded rate hikes more aggressively, terminal rate expectations have risen, and financial conditions have tightened further and now imply a substantially larger drag on growth — somewhat more than we think is necessary,” Goldman’s economists said in a note from late-Monday. Goldman Sachs forecasts a 25% conditional probability of the United States entering a recession in 2024 if it avoids one in 2023, adding that this meant that there was a 48% cumulative probability of a recession over the next two years compared to its prior forecast of 35%.

Alternative Economic Indicators

While there are many “experts” that voice their opinions regarding how the economy will play out in 2023, there is one often over-looked economic indicator that has been very consistent in predicting how strong the economy will be year after the year. This is the “Carboard Box Economic Indicator,” mentioned several times in previous Astronology® articles. Most if not all durable goods manufactured in the United States are shipped in cardboard containers. This industry must be ahead of the curve to be sure that the cardboard containers are available to meet the projected demands of the manufacturers. Below is an updated projection graphic from www.anythingresearch.com:

AnythingResearch Paper Market Forecast Graph

As can be seen, the indicators remain somewhat flat from 2022 into 2023, reflecting Goldman’s projection of a recession continuing into 2023. In fact, it appears that this industry will remain flat until 2027.

The Impact of the “Unofficial” Minimum Wage

The “unofficial” minimum wage continues to grow and is having a dramatic impact on internal pay structures. Continued movement beyond $15.00 an hour towards $20.00 an hour has created serious internal compression among employees, and especially for those who supervise employees. Here is a list of companies that have established a $20 minimum wage: https://ivetriedthat.com/jobs-that-pay-20-an-hour/

  • Taco Time NW – This locally-owned, Mexican-style restaurant chain founded by the Tonkin family has been committed to raising the wages of their crew to “livable wages” and last increased the crew’s salary at the end of 2021.
  • The Boston Beer Company – Brewers of this company earn about $24 an hour.
  • McCain Foods USA, Inc. – Production specialists at the food production company earn between $20 and $25 an hour.
  • Mccormick & Co Inc. – If you’re looking for factory jobs in the food production industry, you can earn over $20 an hour as a blending machine operator.
  • Land O’Lakes, Inc. – This farmer-owned food production cooperative pays machine operators starting at $20 an hour, while their maintenance mechanics get over $25/hour.
  • The Kraft Heinz Company – Quality specialists at this company earn at least $22 per hour. Kraft Heinz is home to over 20 food brands, so expect availabilities in factories near you.
  • Danone – One of the world’s largest food companies, Danone hires warehouse workers (for $20/hour), parts clerks (for $24/hour), and product packers (for $28/hour).
  • Conagra Brands – Join the Conagra Brands team as a production operator and earn over $22/hour.
  • Biogen – This biotech company develops therapies for autoimmune and neurological diseases. 75% of jobs at Biogen begin at over $20 an hour.
  • Merck – About 78% of Merck’s employees are happy with their jobs. QA specialists, for example, earn about $25/hour, while research scientists earn over $30/hour.
  • Pfizer – 37% of Pfizer’s employees work from home. Entry-level positions also earn about $28 to $30 an hour.
  • Gilead Sciences – 91% of employees here feel that their job has meaning thanks to childcare options, tuition reimbursement, and the ability to buy company stock. For example, interns here earn over $25/hour, associate scientists begin with a $30/hour paycheck, and sales specialists could earn as high as $70/hour.
  • AbbVie – This Illinois-based pharma company is known to pay its employees 6% above the market. Medreps at Abbvie earn $40/hour.
  • Johnson & Johnson – This global company is present in 30 countries with 130,000 employees. R&D jobs begin at $25/hour, while admin positions start at around $20 an hour.
  • Amgen – This company, which has developed several cancer treatments, is known to pay its employees high with educational opportunities and technical training. Average entry-level jobs at Amgen are paid around $23/hour.
  • FILMLESS – This growing production company produces video content for a TON of clients. Their video editors earn around $27 to $35 an hour.
  • Meta Design – With locations around the world, Meta Design employs multimedia artists with salaries ranging from $35 to $70 per hour.
  • Guitar Center – This leading retailer of musical instruments hires sound engineering technicians across the country. They earn about $20 to $55 an hour.
  • Chanel – When it comes to the fashion industry, Chanel is the most desired company to work for not only because of its renowned name but also because it takes care of its people. The mid-level fashion designers here earn about $35 an hour.
  • Hobby Lobby – Retail managers here earn between $27 and $36 an hour. The company’s full-time workers begin at $18.50 (a starting wage that’s way higher than many retail companies in the country).
  • Crate and Barrel – Customer service managers here earn about $50 per hour.
  • Walmart – Since late 2020, Walmart has increased wages for its 165,000 employees around the country. Store managers here can earn starting at $35 per hour.
  • Costco – Not only has Costco a reputation for being an exceptional employer, they also pay higher than average. Their Costco mid-level associates earn about $20 an hour.
  • Ulta Beauty – Purchasing managers at this makeup and beauty supply store earn about $60 an hour.
  • Century 21 – As one of the biggest real estate companies in the country with over 122,000 real estate agents under their wing (as of Q1 2021), Century 21 is an in-demand company. Its real estate agents earn a minimum of $24 an hour.
  • SAP America – This company’s software sales representatives earn $55 an hour. But what makes this job super sought after because they also receive up to $100k commissions.
  • McDermott Will & Emery – This Chicago-based law firm is known to pay the highest in the industry. Even their paralegals earn between $22 and $35 an hour depending on experience.
  • Zco – This app development firm is a frontrunner in the field and hires the best mobile app developers for over $50/hour. (Note that entry-level mobile app developers earn $30 an hour in the industry).
  • Deloitte – The company has 55000 employees across 80 offices in the US. Their mid-level bookkeepers earn above $20 per hour.

Summary of 2023 Salary Adjustment Projections

While there are many, including WorldatWork that have released preliminary budget trends, at this time we find the most comprehensive review coming to us from Willis Towers Watson.

Willis Towers Watson (https://www.wtwco.com)

  • In response to a tight labor market, employers are planning to up employee salaries in the biggest projected hike in 15 years, new data from Willis Towers Watson finds.
  • Although it’s a new recent high, it’s not by much: Companies, on average, are budgeting a 4.1% salary increase for 2023, just above this year’s average 4% increase.
  • The 2022 and 2023 salary increases are the largest since the Great Recession of 2008, according to the consulting firm, which surveyed 1,430 employers for insights in April and May.
  • Nearly two in three (64%) U.S. companies are budgeting for higher pay raises than last year, while two-fifths (41%) increased their budgets since original projections were made earlier this year, the survey found.
  • Less than half of companies (45%) are sticking with the pay budgets they set at the start of the year. Concerns over the hot job market—which is seeing a record number of employees leave their jobs for better opportunities—are overwhelmingly driving salary increases, with nearly three in four survey respondents (73%) citing the competitive market as their top factor.
  • That’s followed by employee expectations for higher increases that are driven by inflation (cited by 46% of respondents) and anticipation of stronger financial results (cited by 28%). “Compounding economic conditions and new ways of working are leading organizations to continually reassess their salary budgets to remain competitive,” says Hatti Johansson, research director, rewards data intelligence, at WTW.

Astron Solutions’ Recommendations

The following recommendations are based on current client activity and budget discussions regarding 2023 budgeting:

  • The trend is pointing to base pay budgets of 4% – 5%, with 5% becoming more prevalent.
  • Clients also are establishing contingency budgets of 1% – 2% of base pay for potential additional market adjustments if the current labor availability does not loosen up.
  • Clients also are budgeting for one special employee bonus of 2% – 3%, to use as a special retention bonus in the coming year.

With over four months still to go in 2022, along with the potential impact of the mid-term elections, Astron Solutions will be watching what develops, and will provide additional updates as 2023 compensation budgeting trends become clearer.

What is your organization planning for 2023?

Africa Youth Congress




#WorldofAfrica; #NewAfricanWorld; #NewWorldAfrica #NewAfrica; #NewDealAfrica; #NewAfricanDeal; #Africa; #AfricanYouths

We may never understand or agree on our differences, but we can create a new and better Africa by focusing on the things we have in common.

Africa Youth Congress, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization whose vision is to create a BORDERLESS AFRICA to unite and empower youths of African descent regardless of their country of origin, residence, race, language, religion, ethnicity, tribe, and social status. We are creating a virtual off-grid Africa that connects and trains our youths on the essentials of Pan-Africanism and provides them the right orientation and encouragement to better understand their common interests and challenges so that they can collaborate and work together towards common goals and solutions. We also provide them opportunities and access to activities, trainings, and resources in life-skills, entrepreneurship, and workforce development to empower them to become socially and economically independent. In this new virtual Africa, our youths can collaborate with each other and execute projects and transactions and partake in other fruitful and progressive activities and programs using barter-exchange, digital currencies, and other off-grid payment and funding options.

Our membership

We have two levels of membership. Level One Membership is open to all organizations that work to empower youths of African descent and have passed our KYC and vetting process to confirm their capacity and ability to deliver services and resources directly to youths in their locality. Youths who belong to these organizations will automatically become members of Africa Youth Congress and will receive our services and resources through their local organizations. Level One Membership is also open directly to youths of African descent who reside in locations where we do not have organization-members. Level Two Membership is open to all other organizations and individuals who are friends of Africa and are interested in supporting youths of African descent.  

Why we are doing this

Africa Youth Congress was founded by Texas-based Nigerian-American lawyer who represents foreign companies and investors in Africa and has traveled extensively through African countries. During such travels, Attorney Menes was alarmed that despite having common heritage and challenges, African youths are mostly disconnected from each other and often do not know or understand the issues that are being experienced by youths in other African countries and sometimes even in their own country. Consequently, the youths fail to realize the need to collaborate and support each other in order to find collective solutions to their common challenges and problems. Sadly, African youths are often uninterested and nonchalant when crises befall youths of neighboring countries and would sometimes dismiss the situation as “those people’s problem”, “those weak people” or “it will never happen to us”. But in actuality, if it is happening in one African country, then it could happen in any African country. Unfortunately, our youths often use existing social media platforms mostly for hookups and social purposes rather than to collaborate and collectively seek solutions to their common challenges. 

What Africa needs

Africa is endowed with millions of smart, talented and hardworking youths. Indeed, majority of Africa’s youths are not seeking the world’s pity, handouts, or hand-me-downs. Rather, our youths need and seek opportunities and access to business opportunities, markets, education and training, mentoring, technology, and other resources with which they could empower themselves and become economically self-sufficient. Africa Youth Congress is a platform and movement of new virtual off-grid Africa that truly frees up African youths and allows them to empowerment and future into their own hands without being held back by ever-revolving doors of corrupt and self-dealing politicians who continue to impoverish the continent by exploiting divisive characteristics of religion, language, race, national origin, tribe, ethnicity, etc. Through our new borderless Africa, African youths will be offered brand new opportunities to start on a clean slate and propel their future and destinies.

Special invitation

Hi, I am Attorney Jude (Jay) Menes the founder of Africa Youth Congress. I founded this organization because I strongly believe that at the end of our earthly journey, we will be remembered not by how much money we made during our lifetime, but by how many lives we touched. Because of this belief, I wish to personally invite you to join us in creating this borderless Africa that will touch and change lives of millions of youths. We are currently seeking volunteers to serve as interns, executive officers, advisors, mentors, trainers, life coaches, etc. So, whether you are an individual or an organization, I will like to personally discuss how you can support us by giving your time, skills, training, resources, or in anyway you may choose. My direct email address is menes@meneskonsult.com and I look forward to collaborating with you to change lives. Thank you.


How Total Rewards Reflects An Organization’s Culture

How Total Rewards Reflects An Organization’s Culture

By: Jill Krumholz

There was a time when compensation and benefits were relatively simple and straightforward. Companies provided wages in exchange for employee time and effort, and some sweetened the deal with insurance benefits such as health, life, and long-term disability. Over time, the competition to attract and retain a dedicated, productive workforce has driven employers to rethink the perquisites (perks) they offer.

This reevaluation led many to adopt a Total Rewards strategy, and the changes in workforce management in recent years has made the concept of Total Rewards even more relevant. 

A company’s culture – who it is and its values – plays a significant role in identifying the Total Rewards components that speak to an organization’s workforce and drive success, for both the business and individuals. Creativity is the key to a cutting edge Total Rewards program.

In this article, we will introduce the idea of Total Rewards and discuss how such a focus can shape and reinforce your culture.

Total Rewards is a Holistic Approach to Employee Recognition

Total Rewards takes a broader and more comprehensive view of compensation, extending beyond wages and health insurance, to address all facets of an employee’s life – work-related as well as personal. 

The approach recognizes that employees value more than a paycheck. They appreciate and in many instances expect companies to reward their service in ways that support all aspects of their lives with both direct and indirect compensation. Additionally, more workers are pressing employers to stand up as good corporate citizens and address current challenges facing society. One way many organizations address these concerns is with original Total Rewards designs. 

Distinguishing Direct and Indirect Compensation

Total Rewards programs encompass both direct and indirect forms of compensation. Direct compensation refers to the cash paid to employees for the work they perform. Direct compensation seems straight forward, but there is more to this category than just base pay. Bonuses, commissions, stock options, profit sharing, and other monetary earnings fall into this category. 

Indirect compensation is everything else.This broad concept is limited only by legal parameters, corporate budget, and the levers that drive an organization’s overall compensation strategy. Some standard perks that fall under this umbrella include health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans (pension and 401(k)), but any non-monetary “extra” conferred is an indirect benefit.

The Flexibility of Indirect Benefits

In recent years, we have seen an explosion in the innovative ways companies attract, retain, and recognize their employees. In the most effective programs, Total Rewards offerings mirror the company’s values, mission, and overall culture. 

A company’s catalog of indirect benefits speaks volumes about who they are, where they are going, and how they want to get there. They inform applicants prior to the interview stage, thus attracting candidates who value the culture and direction of the organization. Once on board, indirect benefits greatly impact employee commitment and morale.  

Examples of indirect benefits that extend beyond paid time off and insurance coverages include:

  • Flexible work schedules 
    • Hybrid
    • Remote
    • Compressed workweeks (i.e., 4-day workweek)
  • Employee assistance programs supporting mental health needs
  • Wellness benefits, such as gym memberships
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Child and elder care 
  • Sabbaticals to pursue work and non-work related interests
  • Student loan repayment

This list could go on and on. Each organization needs to reflect on their unique situation and devise a comprehensive Total Rewards strategy that dovetails with their business goals and the characteristics of their employee population. 

Building a Total Rewards Program Aligned with Your Company Goals, Culture, and Workforce

Whether updating your current program or migrating to a Total Rewards model, how you decide to appreciate and recognize your employees should tie back to your organization’s mission and values – what the company aims to accomplish in the world at large and how it appreciates and recognizes the people who help get it there. 

By reflecting on these big picture themes, companies can then distill those drivers into actionable items. By identifying meaningful formal and informal offerings, employers can craft tangible Total Rewards strategies that support those goals and evidence their corporate cultures. 

Balancing Corporate Interests and Employee Expectations

The better an organization understands who it is (or wants to be) and the traits that make its workforce unique, the more effectively it can integrate that knowledge into a dynamic Total Rewards design. To be successful, Total Rewards components must always align with corporate objectives and budgets, but they must also match the specific makeup of a company’s workforce. 

What motivates manufacturing facility employees may not be successful in an office setting. Similarly, younger workforces may be focused on career pathing, education and development opportunities, wealth accumulation, and childcare alternatives, while seasoned workforces may be looking for assistance with elder care, college preparation for their high school aged children, and retirement planning and transitioning.  

Synergies with Other Human Resources Initiatives

Total Rewards factors into a number of Human Resources policies, with indirect benefits being the backbone of many initiatives. Recruitment, performance management, recognition programs, and diversity, equity and inclusion are only a few of the HR programs that a strong Total Rewards approach enhances. 

Here are some examples where Total Rewards adds value:

  • In addition to a competitive salary and bonus, unique and broader thinking indirect benefits may help with talent recruitment by differentiating your company from the competition
  • Targeted, indirect benefits, such as company cars for field sales representatives, may improve engagement and productivity as part of innovative recognition programs
  • Performance management programs utilizing unique and specific incentives may increase employee productivity and engagement by focusing on what motivates particular groups or individual employees
  • Ensuring equitable distribution and access to benefits reinforces a company’s commitment to value all employees equally and create a welcoming, comfortable, and innovative work environment
  • Flexible work arrangements, such as remote options or work sharing, may result in higher retention and engagement rates

While wages are always the starting point for compensation discussions, today, applicants and employees require broad rewards packages that recognize their financial needs, personal interests, and address important societal issues. This expectation places a value on indirect compensation as never before seen, and it is through an inventive application of indirect compensation that a company’s culture and values can shine through – not only to employees but the greater marketplace. 

If you need assistance reviewing your existing compensation strategy and designing an effective Total Rewards program, we encourage you to contact us at RealHR. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your needs and help you reach your desired goals. 

Healthcare Worker Bonus – The Series

Healthcare Worker Bonus – The Series

If you’re like us, you have certain TV shows that you are totally invested in and can’t wait until the next episode comes out.  Unless you are a masochist, that is probably not the case with respect to the weekly regulation updates coming out from DOH on the Healthcare Worker Bonus (“HWB”).  Even so, this past Wednesday, August 31st, with little fanfare, trailers, or coming attractions, some additional FAQ’s were added to the HWB portal to provide “clarification” on how the program works.  Furthermore, a few adventurous providers did apply for bonuses for the first vesting period, and of course, there were issues in uploading the Excel worksheet.  Also, the format of the portal has changed, the FAQ’s are now in the upper right-hand corner.

New FAQ’s:

The FAQ’s clarified the use of contract workers and their eligibility for the HWB.  Staff placed by a staffing agency at a Qualified Employer are not eligible for the bonus.  The DOH stated that Qualified Employers should submit claims for bonuses only for individuals they employ directly or indirectly on a permanent basis. Contracted temporary staff that are employed or contracted by a staffing agency or other intermediary entity on a temporary basis are not eligible for the HWB program.  Prior FAQ updates had made this clarification blurry by allowing for permanent contracted staff to be eligible.

The FAQs also once again re-iterated the employer eligibility criteria, stating an employer must meet the 4 following criteria:

  1. They are a Medicaid enrolled provider.
  2. They bill for Medicaid services (either through FFS, managed care of a 1915(c) waiver)
  3. Employee at least one eligible employee
  4. Meet one of the three criteria

1. Included in the list of provider and facility types in the statute OR

2. Are subject to a certificate of need (CON) process OR

3. Provider serves at least 20% Medicaid enrollees

The DOH provided some favorable flexibility to staff pushing the $125,000 salary envelope. When you look at employee salary, you should look at both annual base salary and the amount employee made in a vesting period (which are half year). For employers that are submitting claims for more than one vesting period (which would be the case for most submitting in October), employers should determine the wage eligibility across the full year rather than each individual vesting period; this allows an employee that makes more than $62,500 in one period but less than $62,500 in the following to be eligible for bother periods. The example provided is an employee has gross wages of $63,000 in the first vesting period (therefore ineligible) and $60,000 in the second vesting period (for $123,000 total) they would be eligible for both periods. Note the FAQ states this relief is currently available when submitting claims for more than one period at a time, but we would not be surprised if it were expanded in the future. Conversely, if an employee’s annual base salary is over $125,000 for a year, but earn less than $62,500 in a vesting period, they are entitled to a bonus for the period where their salary is below $62,500.

Furthermore, salary, for purposes of the HWB, is not based upon rate of pay, but earnings during a vesting period.  For example, if an hourly employee makes $100 per hour, but only works 20 hours per week, even though the rate of pay annualizes to over $125,000 salary, since they only earned $52,000 for the vesting period, they would be entitled to a $500 bonus for the period (20 hours per week).

As we discussed last week, if an employer has multiple companies that are linked under one MMIS number, the companies are combined for HWB filing.  This means that if an employee moves between linked companies, you would count all of the hours for all of the companies in calculating their bonus and determining if they met the continuous employment test.  These FAQ updates the past 2 weeks have made it much clearer how multiple entity employers should act for this program, so long as the MMIS IDs are linked.

Things we’re seeing:

The regulations require an employee to have continuous employment during the vesting period.  As a result, it is important to look at the date of hire as well as the date of termination to determine eligibility.  We have worked with several providers who hired staff during the vesting period, the employee provided the minimum average of 20 hours per week over a 26-week period but was still ineligible because they did not provide 26 weeks of continuous service.  Note the excel filing asks for the date of hire.

Filing Issues:

Some of the early adopters of the HWB, those brave enough to meet the September 2nd  filing date (don’t forget, the portal will reopen October 1st  for you to submit the first vesting period through October 31st) ran into some filing headaches.  DOH uses a data reader, so when you submit your bonus analysis using the Excel template provided by DOH, you need to make sure that the data is in the exact format required.  Some issues we heard from providers who filed (or tried to):

  1. Make sure that there is no stray information on the spreadsheet. Some providers have reported that the template has pre-populated rows numbering up to 5000 lines.  You need to delete the number in any lines not being used.
  2. The vendor titles work from a drop down menu, make sure you use the drop down and select title (rather than type), because if the titles don’t match, the submission will be rejected.

Finally, following in the footsteps of EI, OPWDD has directed OPWDD funded providers to reach out to the portal with any questions they may have unless they involve getting an SFS number.

So that pretty much wraps things up for this episode and season 1 … and like any good murder mystery series, we are left with a lot of unanswered questions … stay tuned for the trailers (and likely spoilers) over the next few weeks as we head toward the season 2 premiere in October.

Kenneth R. Cerini, CPA, CFP, FABFA

Kenneth R. Cerini, CPA, CFP, FABFA

Managing Partner

Ken is the Managing Partner of Cerini & Associates, LLP and is the executive responsible for the administration of our not-for-profit and educational provider practice groups. In addition to his extensive audit experience, Ken has been directly involved in providing consulting services for nonprofits and educational facilities of all sizes throughout New York State in such areas as cost reporting, financial analysis, Medicaid compliance, government audit representation, rate maximization, board training, budgeting and forecasting, and more.

Edward McWilliams, CPA

Edward McWilliams, CPA


Ed is a Partner in the firm’s tax and business advisory practice focusing on providing services to middle market private companies across different industries as well as to early stage startups. Ed has over a decade of experience providing tax and business consulting services to these companies of different sizes and across different industries, bringing a broad and diverse knowledge base and strategic solutions to the many complex issues that businesses face.