If you’re one of the conventional wisdom-mongers who’s certain that American workers’ pay is about to turn the corner after years of stagnation, you’ve had another bad day today. The Labor Department just came out with the latest figures on median weekly earnings for the nation’s full-time wage and salary earners – a more comprehensive measure than the median wage figures, since it covers longer units of time and more forms of compensation. And these data show that whatever feeble momentum this reading has shown now and again over the last year has once more ground to a halt.
After rising by 1.19 percent after inflation between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014 (to $341 in 1982-84 dollars), weekly earnings were completely flat for the year ending in the first quarter of 2015. The first quarter year-on-year performance was also weaker than the 0.59 percent rise registered from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2014. Sequentially, real weekly earnings ticked up from only $340 to $341 between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015. But they’ve fluctuated around this level since the start of last year.
The new data mean that real weekly earnings are now down 1.16 percent since the current economic recovery technically began, in the third quarter of 2009. Interestingly, they rose by 2.03 percent through the first quarter of 2010, but since then have declined by 1.14 percent. Wondering why American consumers are still so cautious about spending? Look no farther.