Cross-posted from Middle Class Political Economist.
Your read it here first: Real wages fell 0.2% in 2012, down from $295.49 (1982-84 dollars) to $294.83 per week, according to the 2013 Economic Report of the President. Thus, a 1.9% increase in nominal wages was more than wiped out by inflation, marking the 40th consecutive year that real wages have remained below their 1972 peak.
Yet no one in the media noticed, or at least none thought it newsworthy. I searched the web and the subscription-only Nexis news database, and there are literally 0 stories on this. So I meant it when I said you read it here first. In fact, there was little press coverage of the report at all, in sharp contrast to last year.
Below are the gory details. The data source is Appendix Table B-47, “Hours and Earnings in Private Non-Agricultural Industries, 1966-2012.” The table has been completely revised since last year’s edition of the report. The data is for production and non-supervisory workers in the private sector, about 80% of the private workforce, so we are able to focus on what’s happening to average workers rather than those with high incomes.. I use weekly wages rather than hourly because there has been substantial variation (with a long-term decline) in the number of hours worked per week, from 38.5 in 1966 to 33.7 in 2012. The table below takes selected years to reduce its size.
Year Weekly Earnings (1982-84 dollars)
1972 $341.73 (peak)
1992 $266.46 (lowest point; 22% below peak)
2012 $294.83 (still 14% below peak)
This decline is especially amazing when we consider that private non-farm productivity has doubled in this period:
Update: Jon Talton at the Seattle Times has now taken note of this.