Why? Why Does the Media Routinely Lie About Worker Wages and Compensation?

The Wall Street Journal is excited:

American workers received their biggest pay raises in a nearly decade in the year to June, a sign the strong labor market and low unemployment is boosting wages as employers compete for scarcer workers. The employment-cost index, a measure of wages and benefits for civilian workers, rose 2.8% in the 12 months to June, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Wages and salaries, which account for about 70% of total compensation, also rose 2.8% from a year earlier. That marked the strongest gain for both measures since September 2008.

I am so tired of this shit I could croak. Unless I missed it because I was so annoyed, there’s not a single mention in the Journal story about what this “pay raise” looks like adjusted for inflation. So for your edification, here’s the ECI itself adjusted for inflation

It doesn’t really seem to be growing much lately, does it? Here’s another chart showing the year-over-year growth of the ECI adjusted for inflation:

Yep, you read that right: growth from June 2017 to June 2018 is a whopping 0.13 percent. That’s how much the average cost of employing someone has increased over the past year. That includes wages, health care, Social Security payments, office costs, pension benefits, etc. etc. It’s the whole enchilada. Total it up and it comes to 0.13%.

Does this mean that the “steady drumbeat of rising inflation continues”? I suppose, but you could simply put up a chart showing the inflation rate if that’s the point you wanted to make. Conversely, “U.S. Workers Get Biggest Pay Increase in Nearly a Decade” is just a straight lie by any measure. In fact, worker compensation increased at its lowest rate since 2014.


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

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


Support our journalism

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