Pay rates increased 3.82 per cent for the year ended July over the same period in the previous year, a survey by the Employers and Manufacturers Association shows.

The eighth national salary and wage survey, across 692 businesses, also found 76 per cent expected to take on more staff in the year ahead.

Ten per cent of those surveyed increased pay by 4 per cent, 9 per cent increased it by 5 per cent, around 6 per cent increased pay by greater than 5 per cent and one and a half per cent increased pay by 10 per cent or more. Pay packets surveyed ranged from top executives to junior staff.

Graeme Perfect, who manages the survey for the EMA, said the results were surprising considering events such as September 11.

It indicated business conditions would remain in "good heart" during the present year, although the 65 per cent who believed conditions would improve over the year was down from the 71 per cent who believed the same last year.

Perfect said the results indicated constraints to faster economic growth would be most likely related to skills development and available labour.