The tragedy of the continuing Trump and “Russiagate” political battles was perfectly illustrated yesterday by the release of the Labor Department’s newest data on inflation-adjusted wages. As the administration and its foes intensified a fight that’s ultimately over the legitimacy of the president’s White House win last November, the statistics made clear that the growth of Americans’ paychecks is still deeply stuck in the mud.
The real wage figures are always one month behind their pre-inflation counterparts, so the new numbers only take us through April. And they and the March results are still preliminary. At first glance, the news looked mixed. On a monthly basis, wages for the private sector (these data leave out government workers’ wages, since they’re determined largely by politicians’ decisions, not market forces) inched up only 0.09 percent in April. That was worse than March’s 0.28 percent improvement, and that March figure was revised down from the initial 0.47 percent reading.
The picture was somewhat brighter for manufacturing; April’s sequential increase of 0.46 percent was its best since August, 2015 (0.66 percent). But the March rise was downgraded from 0.37 percent to 0.28 percent.
And no one should be happy about the year-on-year changes. April’s was 0.37 percent for the private sector as a whole, and 0.46 percent for manufacturing. Between the previous Aprils, the numbers were 1.42 percent and 1.79 percent, respectively.
The cumulative results during this nearly eight-year old economic recovery? After-inflation private sector wages have increased only 4.07 percent, and manufacturing wages are up only 1.49 percent.
In other words, American workers – and especially those in manufacturing – have all but lost nearly eight years when it comes to their ability to keep up with the cost of living. And given Washington’s focus on the political wars, more lost months at the least are likely on the way.