Blue-Collar Wages Are Nothing to Crow About Yet

How have ordinary blue-collar workers been doing lately? To hear the financial press tell it, their wages are skyrocketing. “It’s still a workers’ labor market” says Vox, while the Wall Street Journal warns of dire days ahead for corporate profits.

But let’s not get carried away. Thanks to low inflation, workers have been doing fairly well for the past few months. But if you look at quarterly data for the past two years compared to the past 20 years, here’s what you get:

During 2018 blue-collar wages went up about 1.1 percent. It was a decent year, but it was just making up for a lackluster 2017. Over the past two years together, blue-collar wages have gone up 0.67 percent per year. That’s nearly identical to the 20-year trend, which has seen blue-collar wages increase 0.66 percent per year.

If blue-collar wages continue to rise at 1-2 percent per year for four or five years, then we’d have something to be happy about. But we’re nowhere close to that. We’ve had one year of middling-good growth, a few months of good growth, and that’s all. There’s really nothing extraordinary going on here.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

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