NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Wages Drop, Only Fifth Time in 33 Years

July 11, 2012

In assessing the broad health of the economy, the unemployment rate (and similarly, the employment rate) receives a disproportionately large amount of attention. This occurs to the exclusion of other metrics, including average weekly wages, which can offer a more in-depth understanding of how much the economy has recovered or, conversely, how troubled the United States remains, says the Washington Examiner.

In a just-released review of employment in the nation's largest 322 counties, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that wage data is far gloomier than employment data, which has shown marginal gains in recent months.

  • According to the report, weekly wages dropped during 2011 by 1.7 percent to $955 from a high of $971 in the fourth quarter of 2010.
  • That means the $50,000-a-year mark, busted in the fourth quarter of 2010, has dropped back to an average yearly salary of $49,660.
  • This represents one of only five such declines since the category was created in 1978.
  • Further, the wage depression was widespread: 282 major counties suffered wage declines; just 36 saw increases.

Interestingly, the wage drop comes as employment has increased in a majority of the counties in the last quarter of 2011. That irony makes it the only quarter in history where wages shrunk while employment grew -- a grim reminder that more Americans are taking additional jobs to make ends meet.

Source: "Wages Drop, Only 5th Time in 33 Years," Washington Examiner, July 2, 2012.

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