No Silver Lining: Wages Fell While Inflation Soared This Spring

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A rapid rise in prices over the past year has not been matched by wage gains, indicating American workers are losing ground, data from the Department of Labor showed Friday.

Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 113.6 million full-time wage and salary workers were $990 in the second quarter of 2021 , the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This was 1.2 percent lower than a year earlier.

That compares with a gain of 4.8 percent in the Consumer Price Index over the same period.

That means inflation-adjusted wages are down six percent. Or, to flip it around, wage-adjusted prices are up six percent.

Either way you look at it, it is bad news for American workers.

Adding to the furstration of workers and employers, on average enhanced unemployment benefits pays around $620, which means many unemployed are receiving nearly 2/3 of the median weekly wage for people working full time.

In fact, unemployment pays significantly more than the median wage of $596 per week for women aged 16 to 24 and close to the $643 paid to their male peers. No wonder employers say it is hard to find new workers.