In one sense, President Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was well-timed – it’s inevitably distracting attention from the latest set of real wage figures (for May) released this morning by the Labor Department. The big takeaways: On a monthly basis, Americans’ inflation-adjusted hourly pay keeps going nowhere, and in fact, constant dollar wages for both the entire private sector and for manufacturing remained in technical recession. That is, they’re down on net for two straight quarters or more of economic activity.
The new data show that, for the private sector overall, real wages inched up sequentially by 0.09 percent in May after flat-lining in April. For manufacturing workers, they fell for the second straight month, with April’s 0.09 percent dip followed by a 0.19 percent drop in May.
As a result, on an annual basis, after-inflation private sector wages are unchanged, and such pay in manufacturing is off by 1.20 percent. Between the previous Mays, real wages in the private sector rose by 0.66 percent, and in manufacturing by 0.28 percent.
The new May statistics reveal that the private sector has been enduring a real wage recession since last June, as constant dollar hourly pay has declined by a cumulative 0.09 percent since then. As for manufacturing, its real wage recession dragged into its 28th straight month, with price-adjusted hourly wages down by 0.28 percent since January, 2016.
Just as worrisome, real wages in manufacturing are nearing the point of complete stagnation during the current economic recovery. Since mid-2009, they’ve advanced only by a barely perceptible 0.19 percent. The private sector’s performance during this period is only decent by comparison: It’s after-inflation hourly pay has risen by 4.27 percent during this nearly nine-year expansion.