American Dream or American Nightmare?

In December 2014, the jobless rate in the United States dropped to 5.6%.  Even correcting for folks who retired or simply gave up job-hunting, that’s an encouraging statistic.  Still more encouraging are the stock market’s recent bullish behavior, and the almost exponential growth of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

But don’t start celebrating just yet.  In a recent blog post, USW President Leo Gerard noted numerous flaws in recent economic reports and forecasts.  Among the most disheartening: wages have not, by any measure, kept up with overall economic growth, or, more specifically, with the expansion of CEO compensation.

In 2014, the pool of available jobs in our country grew more quickly than at any time since 1999.  But 2014 saw no appreciable improvement in earnings for rank-and-file employees.  One economist compared the disparity between growth in the availability of jobs, and growth in wages, to an airplane.  She put it like this.  The front end may be tilting up, but what about the back end? When is that truly going to get of the ground?

As the chart below shows, median weekly earnings in today’s U. S. are just a tad under $800.  That figure hasn’t changed since 2007.  Translation?  Hard-working Americans can’t feel at all comfortable when they realize that their wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living.

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Michele Petrovsky holds a Master's Degree in Computer Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She spent over two decades teaching in colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and currently publishes two blogs: Thoughts4Change and I Owe It All to J Thaddeus Toad. Petrovsky resides in Glen Mills, PA.


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