Can We Please Stop Using Nominal Wage Figures to Tout New Records?

Here is the Wall Street Journal today:

Wage growth accelerated, with average hourly earnings for private-sector workers climbing 0.34% on the month and up 2.9% over the past year. That was the strongest year-over-year gain since June 2009.

I am so tired of reading this kind of thing, especially in a newspaper aimed at the financial and business communities. The Journal is presenting nominal wage growth and calling it the “strongest” since 2009. But who cares? If inflation is running at 5 percent, that would be a wage decrease. If it’s running at 0 percent, that would be terrific growth. So what does real wage growth look like?

Adjusted for inflation—which is the only metric that matters to economists and workers alike—wages were up slightly more than 1 percent. The last time we saw growth that high was…16 months ago.

Real wage growth of 1 percent isn’t horrible. I happen to prefer looking at wages for nonsupervisory workers, which were up only about 0.6 percent, but that’s a matter of taste. What’s not a matter of taste is adjusting for inflation. Real wage growth in January was OK, but it was no record breaker.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate