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Even if you keep emphasizing that wage figures aren’t the only, or even best, measure of U.S. employee compensation available, you’ll have difficulty saying or writing the term “wage inflation” after seeing the new real wage figures available from the Labor Department.

According to the new data, inflation-adjusted wages for private sector workers fell by 0.38 percent from May to June – the worst monthly performance since February, 2013. (My numbers come straight from the raw data posted on the Labor Department website.) Just as bad, May’s figures were revised down from a 0.09 percent decline to a 0.19 percent drop. On a year-on-year basis, June’s 1.75 percent after-inflation wage increase was the lowest since last December.

The year-on-year figures get interesting because they reveal what a low bar has been set for wage-inflation worries. Those June, 2014-15 real wage gains were not only much better than the previous year’s – which were zero. They were the best June-June numbers since 2008-09. During that stretch, when the deep recession was turning into a weak recovery, real wages shot up by 4.14 percent. But that increase followed a June, 2007-2008 fall of 2.17 percent. In other words, choices of baselines count.

But here’s one baseline that should be completely uncontroversial. The current recovery is commonly dated to mid-2009. Since that June, American private sector workers have seen wages rise a grand total of 1.65 percent faster than the cost of living. And the anointed experts wonder why so many consumers remain cautious (when they’re not bemoaning this prudence)?

As has been the case for way too long, manufacturing’s real wage performance kept lagging that of the overall private sector in June. Month-to-month, its constant dollar wages sank by 0.47 percent – the biggest such drop since August, 2012. Moreover, the year-on-year manufacturing real wage figures show the importance of baselines even more strikingly than their private sector counterparts.

The June, 2014-June, 2015 manufacturing real wage rise of 0.86 percent was the best June-June increase since that early 2008-2009 late-recession period (when it surged by 5.10 percent). In fact, it’s only the second increase since then. Yet since the recovery began, inflation-adjusted manufacturing wages are down by 1.59 percent, adding to the evidence that the sector’s strong comeback following a scary recessionary nosedive has come largely at the expense of its workforce.

Finally, the new real wage data provide some essential background for just-started new round of Detroit automakers’ contract talks with the United Auto Workers’ union. Numbers for sectors as specific as autos and light trucks (together) per se lag the broader figures by a month. But in May, they plunged 1.76 percent on month, after increasing by 1.19 percent in April. From May, 2014 to May, 2015, they fell 1.40 percent – nearly twice as much as the 0.73 percent decrease on year the previous May. And since the recovery’s June, 2009 technical onset, they’ve dropped by 9.86 percent. Detroit’s low road back to competitiveness, in other words, keeps getting lower.

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