As Inflation Soars, Americans’ Real Wages Decline
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the November jobs report in the State Dining Room of the White House on December 03, 2021 in Washington, DC. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the economy added 210,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 4.2%.
Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Americans’ take-home pay is eroding due to high inflation.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that consumer price inflation has reached a 6.8% rate — the largest year-over-year increase since June 1982, as well as the sixth straight month in which inflation has remained above 5%.

The agency also revealed that “real average hourly earnings” — which consider the impact of inflation upon purchasing power — fell by 0.4% between October and November. Though nominal average hourly earnings rose by 0.3%, the effects were overshadowed by a 0.8% increase in consumer prices.

Fortune explained:

U.S. workers at private companies earned an average of $31.03 per hour in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past year, workers’ hourly pay has increased by 4.8%.

But when you factor in inflation, real wages are down 1.9% over the past year, according to the BLS. From October to November, real average hourly earnings for all employees decreased 0.4%. Going back to the start of the pandemic, real wages have declined roughly 1% since February 2020, Furman estimated.

As summarized by CNBC, some of the largest consumer price increases between November 2020 and November 2021 apply to goods such as:

  • Gas — 58.1%
  • Used vehicles — 31.4%
  • Hotels — 25.5%
  • Meat, poultry, and fish — 13.1%
  • Furniture and bedding — 11.8%
  • New vehicles — 11.1%
  • Domestic services — 10.2%
  • Jewelry — 6.7%
  • Electricity — 6.5%
  • Food — 6.1%
  • Apparel — 5%
  • Milk — 4.6%
  • Fruits and vegetables — 4%

A recent poll found that more than three quarters of Americans say inflation is impacting their lives. Yahoo News — which sponsored the survey alongside YouGov — reported:

In addition to the nearly 8 in 10 Americans who now say inflation is affecting them personally (37 percent “a great deal”; 40 percent “some”), more than 6 in 10 (61 percent) say the same about “shortages of goods and services” (17 percent “a great deal”; 44 percent “some”).

A majority of Americans (51 percent) also say they’re worried they “won’t be able to afford what they need during the holidays due to inflation,” while 45 percent say they’re worried they “won’t be able to get what they need” due to shortages.

Combined with persistent supply chain bottlenecks and labor shortages, the rising price levels reflect poorly upon the Biden administration’s domestic agenda. Indeed, the White House is now allegedly pushing news outlets to provide more favorable economic coverage.

“The White House, not happy with the news media’s coverage of the supply chain and economy, has been working behind the scenes trying to reshape coverage in its favor,” said CNN’s media newsletter. “Senior White House and admin officials — including NEC Deputy Directors David Kamin and Bharat Ramamurti, along with Ports Envoy John Porcari — have been briefing major newsrooms over the past week, a source tells me.”

“The officials have been discussing with newsrooms trends pertaining to job creation, economic growth, supply chains, and more. The basic argument that has been made: That the country’s economy is in much better shape than it was last year. I’m told the conversations have been productive, with anchors and reporters and producers getting to talk with the officials.”

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