For four decades, even in stronger economic times, USA wage gains have not kept pace with economic growth. Wages and salaries peaked at more than 51 percent of the economy in the late 1960s; they fell to 45 percent by the start of the last recession in 2007 and have since fallen to 42 percent.
Last year, Emanuel Saez — an economist from the University of California, Berkeley — made headlines with the finding that 95 percent of income gains from 2009 to 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent of earners. But this finding was not about the rich doing well; their incomes are actually growing a little more slowly than in the last two economic expansions.
Instead, it reflects the failure of most of America to recover at all, with real market incomes for the 99 percent rising just 0.1 percent a year. Higher corporate profits and higher stock prices have not translated into meaningfully higher wages.
Wage and salary as a share of GDP. Gray bars indicate recessions.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis