Home > upward income redistribution > America’s decade of declining real wages

America’s decade of declining real wages

from David Ruccio


“We allow our fellow Americans to be exploited for the benefit of corporate greed and unnecessary wars. This nation has become an embarrassment.” That’s how tintin from the Midwest responded to the news that many factory jobs today pay far less than what workers in almost identical positions earned in the past.

Perhaps even more significant, while the typical production job in the manufacturing sector paid more than the private sector average in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, that relationship flipped in 2007, and line work in factories now pays less than the typical private sector job. That gap has been widening — in 2013, production jobs paid an average of $19.29 an hour, compared with $20.13 for all private sector positions.

In addition, according to a new study by the National Employment Law Project [pdf], wages in U.S. manufacturing are not keeping up with inflation. As shown in the table above, the median wage for all manufacturing workers in the United States is (as of 2013) $15.66 per hour. In real terms, however, since 2003, the inflation-adjusted median hourly wage for manufacturing workers has declined by nearly $1.00 an hour, from $16.38 to $15.66 (in 2013 dollars). That amounts to a drop of over 4 percent. For a manufacturing worker who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks per year, that translates to a drop in income of about $2,000 a year. That real decline has taken place across all wage categories.


Meanwhile, during that same period, manufacturing productivity increased by over 25 percent.

In other words, while the American public assumes that manufacturing jobs are highly paid, allowing workers to benefit from their efforts and skills, the reality is that millions of manufacturing workers now found themselves at the bottom of the wage scale, benefiting less and less from their productivity.

It’s a national embarrassment.

  1. Herb Wiseman
    November 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    And then do many of them vote for the members of congress selected by their corporate masters? The voters stayed away from the polls in droves in the mid-terms.The Trilateralists stated in 1973 that expectations were too high amongst the people and expectations had to be reduced. The combination of controlling economic thinking (universities, Milton Friedman winning the Nobel, newspaper pop economics writers, etc.), and PR against governments can only be seen as a huge success. for the campaign that followed their 1973 meeting.

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