Real wages are failing to rebound from high inflation due to a decline in the number of hours worked per week, but corporate media outlets insist that earnings are rising for average Americans.
Wages grew approximately 0.6% in January compared to December and 4.5% year-over-year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which corporate media outlets have celebrated as a victory over high inflation that has raised prices and degraded Americans’ purchasing power since President Joe Biden took office. Despite the rise in pay per hour, the average number of hours worked per week in January fell to 34.1, far from the 34.9 average hours worked per week in January 2021 when Biden first took office, affecting Americans’ total take-home.
“The decline of the average workweek is very troubling,” E.J. Antoni, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, told the DCNF. “Businesses are increasingly laying off employees and eliminating full-time positions. At the same time, when people quit a full-time position, businesses today are more likely to eliminate the position rather than fill it with a new employee. People are increasingly working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Many of those who are fortunate enough to have a full-time job are having to work either a second full-time job or at least a part-time job.”
Adjusted for inflation, workers made $35.10 per hour on average in January 2021, which declined amid high inflation but has since rebounded slightly to $34.55 per hour, not quite reaching the same level, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzed by the Daily Caller News Foundation. The average wage per hour with the average hours worked in January yields an inflation-adjusted $1,224.99 per week, compared to $1,178.16 in January 2024, equating to around a 4% decrease.
Some media outlets, including Axios, pointed to the increase in real wages over the last year as a reason for workers to celebrate, leaving out the worst of the inflation that has degraded wages since Biden first took office.
As people work fewer hours, their paychecks buy less, even w/ hourly raises, b/c prices are still rising faster than weekly earnings; significantly higher hourly wages still leave workers behind – about 4.3% behind Jan ’21… pic.twitter.com/lCDIe7lRDn
— E.J. Antoni, Ph.D. (@RealEJAntoni) February 2, 2024
The reduction in hours is accompanied by an increase in part-time jobs and a decline in full-time jobs. The number of people employed in part-time positions increased to more than 1.6 million from June 2023 to January, while the number of people in full-time jobs fell over 1.6 million in that same time.
The economy added 353,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in January, far higher than the 180,000 jobs expected by economists, with the BLS also performing its yearly calibration with new census data throwing off estimates.
Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June 2022, decelerating slowly to its current rate of 3.4% year-over-year as of December, far higher than the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. In response to high inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised its federal funds rate to a range of 5.25% and 5.50%, the highest level in 22 years, stifling business outlooks due to an increase in the cost of credit.
“The notable shift to part-time employment is exacerbating the slow growth of average hourly earnings but is more dramatically decreasing average weekly earnings because part-time jobs provide fewer hours than full-time ones,” Antoni told the DCNF. “Under Biden, both hourly and weekly earnings growth has fallen far behind inflation.”
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