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Lower-Wage Workers See Greatest Pay Increases

Wage growth among lower-paid, less-educated workers is outpacing the wage growth of better-compensated, more educated employees, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: “Labor Department data show that for a worker at the upper limit of the bottom 10% by income, typical weekly earnings in the fourth quarter were 22.3% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2019, outpacing the 15.7% gain in consumer prices over the same period by the Labor Department’s inflation measure. But for a worker at the 90th percentile, earnings grew 13.3%.”

  • While median weekly pay for workers with only a high school diploma increased 17.1% in the same period, workers who had at least a bachelor’s degree saw wage growth of just 11.9%.
  • A new research paper suggests that the competition for lower-paid workers will become fiercer than it was pre-pandemic, reducing income inequality and potentially “reshap[ing] the U.S. business landscape.”

The NAM’s take: “It’s important to note that a job in manufacturing can provide that ladder up for many Americans into a well-paying, well-respected job and career,” said NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray, who is also director of the Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research.

  • “The average manufacturing employee earned $95,990 in 2021, including pay and benefits, and the sector continues to be a meaningful pathway into the middle class—one that can make a huge difference in workers’ lives and in the economy as a whole.”
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