Despite growing economic uncertainties and a looming recession, most U.S employers are still planning to give their best workers a bigger paycheck next year, a new global survey shows.

While the average merit-based raise in the coming year will be 3.5 percent, unchanged from this year, top employees can expect a pay increase of up to six percent, according to Watson Wyatt, an Arlington, Va.-based consulting firm.

Among 276 U.S. employers that took part in a recent global survey, smaller pay raises ranked below layoffs, restructuring and hiring freezes as the best response to a prolonged downturn, the firm reported. Surprisingly, about a third of U.S. respondents said they had no formal contingency plans for handling a recession.

By contrast, more than 80 percent of employers surveyed in Europe and Asia said they had contingency plans in place.

"We know from previous recessions and economic slowdowns that those companies that have contingency plans in place will be in a much better position to weather the storm and bounce back when the economy improves," Laura Sejen, global director of strategic rewards consulting at Watson Wyatt, said in a statement.