Home > The Economy > Wages of US workers by wage percentile 1979-2013

Wages of US workers by wage percentile 1979-2013

from David Ruccio

hourly wages-1979-2013According to the Economic Policy Institute [pdf],

For all but the highest earners, hourly wages have either stagnated or declined since 1979 (with the exception of a period of strong across-the-board wage growth in the late 1990s). Median hourly wages rose just 6.1 percent (or 0.2 percent annually) between 1979 and 2013, compared with a decline of 5.3 percent (or -0.2 percent annually) for the 10th percentile worker (i.e., the worker who earns more than only 10 percent of workers). Over the same period, the 95th percentile worker saw growth of 40.6 percent, for an annual gain of 1.0 percent.

During that same period, productivity in the U.S. economy grew 64.9 percent.

annual wages-1979-2012

Only the “wages” of the top 1 percent (when measured in terms of real annual wages) surpassed the growth of productivity. The cumulative change in the wages of all other groups was less.

In other words, most of the growing amount of value produced by American workers wasn’t paid back to them in the form of wages but, instead, was either retained by their employers or distributed to a tiny group of CEOs and managers at the top.

  1. Ack Nice
    September 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Frodo failed. Wall Street has The Ring.

    (They keep it in a vault at the Pentagon.)

  2. originalsandwichman
    September 2, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    How nice of the makers to let some of their value creation trickle down to the takers.

  3. September 3, 2014 at 11:47 am

    To really get the full picture you need to break down the data by gender. Women’s median wages continued to rise until about 10 years ago, which masked the decline of male wages. And households that have multiple workers bringing in the same income are effectively poorer.

    A man with only a high school education who graduates and enters the labor force today is looking at a wage 26% lower than a man who started working in 1969…and that’s assuming he can find a job. If we look at all men instead of just full-time workers then wages are down by 47%. I have some graphs up on my own blog breaking down BLS data on wages by gender and education levels for those who are interested: http://natewkratzer.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/an-unhappy-labor-day-wages-are-falling-across-the-u-s/

  4. September 8, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Yes, and the reasons ought to be clear by now. See here: http://econintersect.com/b2evolution/blog2.php/2014/09/03/a-fish-rots-from-the-head
    “The official numbers for inflation – PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index) – present a case for low inflation and low inflationary pressure. (See Figure 1.) Wage and income inflation – represented by median household income – is disinflationary, and since the turn of the century even deflationary. (See Figure 2.) The expansionary monetary policy of the Federal Reserve is based on the perception that the policy is justified by low employment levels and the above measurements of inflation. But what if the Fed is looking at the wrong metrics?”

  5. Daniel Linotte
    November 15, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Can that be related to the opening of national economies, through the GATT/WTO frameworks, and regional and bilateral trade agreements?

  6. Bruce E. Woych
    November 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    “…The stock market and gross domestic product keep going up, while families are getting squeezed hard by an economy that isn’t working for them.” Elizabeth Warren

    quoted from:
    Elizabeth Warren’s Op-Ed in The Washington Post

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