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Wages of US workers declined since economic recovery

4 September 2015 18:23


Wages of employees in the United States have decreased since 2009, with the lowest-paid workers experiencing the sharpest declines, according to a study by a research and advocacy group.

Twenty percent of US workers in the lowest-paid jobs saw their real wage decline by 5.7 percent between 2009 and 2014, the New York-based National Employment Law Project said Thursday.

For all workers, the purchasing power of their wages declined by 4 percent in the same period, meaning the cost of living outpaced any increase in pay.

Real wages refer to wages that have been adjusted for inflation or in terms of their purchasing power.

The decline in real wages among the lowest-paid occupations was much worse, falling 8.9 percent for restaurant cooks, 7.7 percent for food preparation workers and 6.2 percent for home health aides.

In the economic recovery since 2009, these are the sectors where much of the hiring has taken place, the report said.

“These findings suggest that the wage foundations for millions of new jobs over the coming years could be especially shaky and inadequate, providing little economic security,” said Irene Tung, a senior policy researcher at the National Employment Law Project and co-author of the study.

“Stagnant wages are a problem for everyone at this point, but the imbalance in the economy has become more pronounced since the recession,” Tung said.

The new report comes despite a steady gain in hiring, a falling jobless rate and other signs of an improving economy in the US.

The study underscores why so many Americans are still angry about the economy and with what they see as the inability of Democratic and Republican leaders in Washington to do anything to improve the living standards for many ordinary workers.

Along with falling or stagnant wages, one of the most persistent complaints about the current economic recovery is that many of the occupations created so far pay low-wages.

One explanation may lie in the findings of a study released Wednesday by the Economic Policy Institute, also a liberal research group that advocates for low- to moderate-income families in the US.

The report found that even as labor productivity has improved steadily since 2000, the benefits from improved efficiency have nearly all gone to companies, top executives and shareholders, rather than lower-ranking employees.

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