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Base compensation and incentives for HR professionals took a hit last year, according to a new Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report, and they aren’t likely to recover anytime soon.

Some of the most popular HR positions posted only small percentage gains in total cash compensation in 2008. For example, HR assistants’ pay was up only 2%, according to the SHRM survey.

The one bright spot, ironically, is pay for compensation and benefits specialists. In fact, four of the top 20 HR positions with the highest annual increase in median compensation were those specializing in compensation and benefits. For example, comp and benefits supervisors earned 24% more in 2008 than in 2007, averaging $81,500.

“This suggests that organizations may be seeing health costs as a long-term challenge and are willing to invest in benefits professionals who can offer strategies that reduce costs,” says the SHRM report.

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