Today’s new Labor Department data make clear that inflation-adjusted American wages are now performing so badly that just remaining flat month-to-month could justify a passing grade. For in October, real hourly pay in both the private sector overall and in manufacturing floundered below recovery era peaks they’d reached in July (resulting from painfully slow progress over those eight years). In industry, moreover, after-inflation wages fell on a year-on-year basis for the first time since September, 2014.
The 0.09 sequential drop in constant dollar private sector wages was the third straight monthly decline in a row. Since July, after-inflation wages are down a total of 0.46 percent. And year-on-year, October’s increase was a mere 0.37 percent. Between the previous Octobers, these wages rose by 0.75 percent.
As a result, since the recovery technically began, in mid-2009, inflation-adjusted private sector wages are up 4.36 percent.
In manufacturing, price-adjusted pay flat-lined sequentially for the second straight month. Since July, they’re off by 0.82 percent. And since last October, real manufacturing wages have fallen by 0.46 percent – much worse than their 1.87 percent improvement between October, 2015 and October, 2016.
So during the current economic recovery so far, constant dollar manufacturing wages have advanced by only 1.21 percent.
Just as the recovery was starting, then House Republican leader John Boehner, caustically asked Democratic President Barack Obama – and the nation – “Where are the jobs?” They eventually came. But with unemployment driven way down to near-multi-decade lows, pay was supposed to follow. Until they do, claims that the economy is (finally) normalizing will continue having a hollow – and politically tin-eared – ring. And expect to hear more and more Americans ask, “Where are the wages?”