January is becoming one of my favorite months, and for this winter-hater, it has absolutely nothing to do with the weather. Instead, it’s when we start getting at least preliminary economic data for the previous full-year, and the results can be eye-opening – as yesterday’s government figures on inflation-adjusted U.S. wages once again show. In fact, they do a great job of illustrating why the nation’s subpar economic performance contributed to Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency.
Not that they’re the only downbeat figures in this latest data set. But these are the numbers that in my view make the case most vividly:
>Accounting for inflation, wages for private sector workers in toto have gone exactly nowhere since March. (Government workers are left out of these statistics because their wages are determined overwhelmingly by politicians’ decisions, not economic fundamentals.)
>For production and non-supervisory workers, the story is even worse. After inflation, their wages have actually gone down since February – by 0.22 percent.
>Manufacturing workers as a whole have seen their inflation-adjusted wages drop since May – by 0.18 percent.
>Blue-collar manufacturing workers did a little better – their real wages have simply been flat since February.
Only a little less bleakly, the last two years have seen a major deceleration in price-adjusted wage growth. Here are the numbers for all private sector workers:
2014-15: +1.92 percent
2015-16: +0.85 percent
And the results for private sector production and non-supervisory workers:
2014-15: +2.24 percent
2015-16: +0.55 percent
The figures for all manufacturing workers”
2014-15: +1.90 percent
2015-16: +1.21 percent
And finally, for blue-collar manufacturing employees:
2014-15: +2.25 percent
2015-16: +0.81 percent
It’s true that even this dreary situation represents an improvement over the early years of the current recovery – when real wages generally were falling. But since economic growth resumed in America in mid-2009, real wages have barely budged. Here are the increases:
Overall private sector workers: +3.78 percent
Overall non-supervisory and production workers: +3.96 percent
Overall manufacturing workers: +1.21 percent
Overall manufacturing non-supervisory and production workers: +0.81 percent
Glass half-full types can say that at least workers to varying if small degrees have kept ahead of the cost of living. Glass half-empty types can point out that these gains have been stretched out over seven and a half years. No one should have great difficulty understanding why so many voters this year weren’t especially grateful.