US living standards continue to crawl ahead, by half a cent in the dollar during the year to August 2018.
Official figures showed a 0.5% increase in real – in other words inflation-adjusted – weekly earnings over the 12-month period.
But only 0.2 percentage points of this resulted from hourly wage growth. The other 0.3 percentage points arose because of a 0.3% increase in the length of the average working week.
Jobs boom bought with stagnant real earnings
The sluggish improvement in real pay is the other side of the coin of America’s jobs miracle. Unemployment currently stands at 3.9% of the workforce, well below the definition of maximum employment thought to be used by America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, of 4.5%.
Current labour-market buoyancy is reminiscent of the pre-crisis employment boom, when the Fed chairman Alan Greenspan said that any American who wanted a job could have two of them.
But in order to price themselves into work, Americans have had to accept stagnant or even falling real wages.
These latest figures, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, contain a sub-set covering production workers and what are known as non-supervisory employees, those without any responsibility for other employees. Here, real average hourly earnings were unchanged between July and August, seasonally adjusted.