Today's NYT front page: "Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity"
[Top headline of today, Monday's, New York Times. Not often that economic data gets top spot lately.]
"Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's economy since the U.S. began recording the data in 1947."
August 28, 2006
Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity By STEVEN GREENHOUSE and DAVID LEONHARDT
With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.
The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.
As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”
Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.
In a speech on Friday, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, did not specifically discuss wages, but he warned that the unequal distribution of the economy’s spoils could derail the trade liberalization of recent decades. Because recent economic changes “threaten the livelihoods of some workers and the profits of some firms,” Mr. Bernanke said, policy makers must try “to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared.”