The labor market is a lot healthier in 2015 than it was five years ago, and with the unemployment rate falling, a lot of people are expecting the Federal Reserve to start acting to slow economic growth before workers demanding raises can generate inflation.
A new report from the National Employment Law Project puts that choice in context, by showing that inflation-adjusted wages fell substantially between 2009 and 2014 for almost every occupation under the sun.
One cut at this sorted different occupations into quintiles based on their average 2014 wages and then looked at how each quintile has fared. Researchers found that the rich have gotten poorer, and the poor have gotten a lot poorer:
Wages have fallen for the most common high-paid jobs
Delving into finer-grained data, they look at the 10 most commonly held high-wage jobs in America. They find that for all 10 occupations, wages have fallen.
The rightmost column shows the percentage change in wages from 2009 to 2014. The middle column shows the average hourly wage. And the left column shows the number of people who have the job:
Wages have fallen for the most common low-paid jobs, too
The good news for high-wage workers is that, with the exception of lawyering, pay has only fallen a little. If you look at the 10 most commonly held low-wage jobs, you see a much worse situation:
Americans could use a raise
The message in these statistics is pretty clear: A little upward pressure on wages would be a welcome corrective to years of falling pay. Under the circumstances, the itchy trigger on the Federal Reserve staff seems out of touch with the basic reality that a years-long spell of high unemployment has given bosses an unprecedented ability to squeeze their employees.