Pandemic Wage Observations

~300 words, ~1 min reading time

Labor shortage “fun” fact:Inflation-adjusted weekly median earnings JUMPED in the 2nd quarter of 2020 (probably because so many low-wage workers got laid off), but have been steadily falling since then, and are now at the same level they were in the 4th quarter of 2019.

Meanwhile if we don’t adjust for inflation, we see the same jump in the 2nd quarter of 2020, followed by a gradual decline up to the end of 2020 – then a gradual increase.

In short: median wages were “falling” in the back half of 2020 because of low-wage workers being laid off in large numbers in early 2020 and then hired back. Now, wages are “rising”, but failing to keep up with inflation.

Also interesting:

When comparing the weekly earnings for the 1st decile (that is the line that separates the bottom 10% of earners from the top 90%) and the median weekly earnings (the line that separates the top and bottom half), one can see the roller coaster ride from the pandemic specifically hit those with lower incomes harder than average. The bottom 10% went from 50% of median weekly earnings down to about 49% by 3rd quarter of 2020, and is now up to 51.5% – the highest level in the past 10 years. (The lowest was 46.3% back in 2012.) The bottom 10% are also at the best ratio when compared to the top 10% over the past 10 years. (The lowest earning about 21.2% what the top 10% do, while 20%ish has been more typical.)

Note: remember – these are all comparisons of the lines separating, not total or average earnings for these groups. So, properly speaking, the is comparing the highest earner in the bottom 10% with the lowest earner in the top 10%. Or, alternatively, the middle of the bottom 20% with the middle of the top 20%.

Site to get this data and more: https://data.bls.gov/PDQWeb/le

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