How Bad has Wage Growth Been?

USA Today recently pointed out that wage growth has turned down (again), but that's not the real story. Here is a plot of real wages (2008 dollars) since 1909.  Data are for "Average hours and earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers" from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (and older data from Census tables).

Weekly Wages

The real story is that wages have now dipped below the level they first passed through about 1959.  If they drop below about $560 - not at all unlikely - they will be at a 55-year low.

Most of the wage loss occurred before 1981, so we can't blame this one entirely on Reaganomics.  Other things started happening in the late 60's, so maybe this should be chalked up to Friedmanomics.


update 8/6/10

The USA Today story was something of a false alarm.  These wages have increased to $630 in June 2010.