Take-home pay picked up in 2015 and 2016, but it has since flattened out at annual growth rates that remain substantially below the 5% that workers enjoyed prior to the Great Recession.
There are lots of theories for why that’s the case. But there are also lots of different ways of looking at wages themselves, and each data set can tell a different story.
Here are a few ways that the federal government measures compensation and what they show us about Americans’ financial well-being.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Survey publishes data on the private sector, or about 85% of workers. Taking all of those workers and adjusting for inflation, average weekly earnings rose 0.3% in May to $928.74, from a year earlier. But that increase is largely because the number of hours people worked went up by the same amount.
When taking a look at production and non-supervisory workers, who don’t manage other people, earnings have been functionally flat for the past two years.
This data set divides their earnings by the hour rather than the week and found that wages for this group have only risen 7 cents since May 2016, to an average of $22.59 per hour.
By comparison, earnings for all workers, including managers, have grown by 16 cents, to an average of $26.92 an hour.