Common Cents for January 18th 2013

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued a nearly invisible report: “Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers: Fourth Quarter 2012.” While the markets don’t pay much attention to it, I happen to like this thing, as it sheds significant light on the true health of the economy. We can look at job growth, ISM reports, and the like. However, where the rubber meets the road, is the average American worker getting ahead or falling behind?

Frankly, the data isn’t terribly encouraging. True, it isn’t the worst case scenario, but it is much closer to it than to the best case one. Simply put, American workers are treading water, and have been for some time now, when adjusted for inflation.

At the end of 2007, five years ago, the median weekly earnings of wage and salary workers in the US was $700. In constant, read inflation-adjusted, 1982-1984 dollars, the median was $332. At the end of 2012, the nominal median was $868, which sounds great; however, when adjusted, the number was $334. …Read on…

The opinions expressed within this report are those of John Norris as of the initial publication of this blog. They are subject to change without notice, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oakworth Capital Bank, its directors, shareholders, and employees.