NEW YORK (MainStreet)—It's just about time to cowboy up and go get what's yours: a pay raise. According to Aon Hewitt research, salary increases in 2014 – while expected to remain modest -- are predicted to reach their highest levels in six years.

Bumps in pay have crawled slowly higher since falling to an all-time low of 1.8% back in 2009. The Aon survey of 1,147 companies found that salaried workers are projected to see base pay increases of 3.0% in 2014, up slightly from 2.9% in 2013.

If you can't get the boss to see the value of your efforts, you may need to follow the money. That could mean a U-Haul is in your future. According to the survey, workers in some U.S. cities can expect to see salary increases higher than the national average in 2014. These cities include Kansas City (3.2%) and Denver (3.2%). Cities that can expect lower-than-average increases next year include Boston (2.8%) and New York (2.8%).

"While it appears that pay levels are slowly rebounding, we're still far below pre-recessionary levels of compensation spending as companies continue to hold the line on fixed costs," said Ken Abosch of Aon Hewitt. "Salaries represent the largest portion of employer costs today. With a sizable talent pool available and increasing global competition for goods and services, companies aren't feeling tremendous pressures to increase base pay to attract top talent. Instead, they are executing on a pay-for-performance vision that rewards employees based on a mix of business and individual results."

That's a key point. Employers are looking to put their big money towards rewarding their best performers. This year top-tier employees saw average increases of 4.7%, almost twice as much as the average worker received (2.6%). And yet employees who failed to impress -- not even meeting employer expectations -- got a raise, though just barely: ranging from 0.2% to 0.9%. Who knew you could get a raise for not doing your job?

"With conservative budgets and increasing pressure to attract and retain the best talent, companies are still being overly generous towards workers who are underperforming," says Abosch. "We think this often undermines the effectiveness of their pay-for-performance messaging by watering everyone's increases down. Instead of rewarding low-performers, organizations should reallocate that money towards those who have helped achieve strong results."

Still not feeling the love from your boss? Maybe it's time for a career change. How do you look in a hard hat? The industries that can expect to see the highest salary increases in 2014 include energy/oil/gas (3.9%); construction/engineering (3.5%); and mining/milling/smelting (3.3%).

The lowest pay increases are projected to be in education (2.6%); health care/medical services (2.5%); and government (2.2%).

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet