Annual wage rises have dipped to a seven-year low, according to figures released yesterday by the Institute of Human Resource Management. Retail and shipping workers received the lowest pay increases of less than 6.5 per cent and employees in hi-tech and telecommunications industries recorded the highest of more than nine per cent. The survey reported 1997 pay rise trends in 60 companies employing more than 67,000 people. Survey committee chairman Patrick Maule said most workers received pay rises of six to 7.9 per cent in January, compared with an average of 8.5 per cent in 1996. 'This continues the downward trend of pay adjustment over the past seven years,' Mr Maule said. 'It matches the downward trend in inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. 'At all the levels of staff studied, over 85 per cent of the surveyed companies gave less this year than last year - and over 25 per cent of them dropped by more than two per cent,' he said.