Omission Watch: This Should Put an End to the 'Flat Wage' Myth, But It Won't
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released what it calls its Usual Weekly Earnings Report for the Fourth Quarter of 2006 on Friday.
This is one of the more important reports the BLS releases because:
- It looks at the earnings of full-time wage and salary workers, excluding part-timers, business owners, and the self-employed.
- It looks at individuals, not households or families.
- Unlike most reports, it tells us median earnings, the point at which half of workers are earning more and half earning less. Other reports covering "average" results may be distorted by the impact of high earners bringing up the reported average while a "typical" person at the median might not be making any progress.
- It specifically compares nominal earnings increases at the median (i.e., before inflation) to inflation that occurred during the same time period. It therefore tells us whether the "typical" (as opposed to "average") worker has gotten ahead or has fallen behind during the period covered.
So it was very heartening to read the first paragraph from Friday's Usual Weekly Earnings report:
Median weekly earnings of the nation’s 106.9 million full-time wage and salary workers were $682 in the fourth quarter of 2006, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. This was 3.5 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a gain of 1.9 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) over the same period.
It is thus nice to report that the argument that the "typical worker is not getting ahead" was a complete myth in 2006. A net 1.6% increase at the median in one year is, in fact, pretty impressive.
It is not as pleasant to report that in a review of major business stories at AP, MSNBC, Fox, The New York Times, USA Today, and MarketWatch, I found no coverage of the most recent Usual Weekly Earnings report. You can confirm the story's non-existence by starting at the My Way site for AP Business. After reviewing it, you can click on related My Way links near the top of the page for the other five business sources previously noted.
Because of this lack of coverage, you can expect people like Paul Krugman to continue to flog the "falling behind" meme, regardless of the fact that it simply isn't so, and regardless of the number of times they are exposed as dissemblers by bloggers and media monitors.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.