Jobs and Careers

Rich Get Richer: Workers Earned Less in 2009 than 2008

| by AFL-CIO

Looks like Santa is bringing a lump of something to working families, and it isn’t a fatter paycheck.

New data show America’s workers earned less in 2009 than in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compensation was down by 3.2 percent in 2009 with declines in construction and manufacturing fueling the plunge.  St. Louis County, the hardest hit, saw a decline of 11.5 percent.

For those lucky enough to have a job, average pay increased by 1.2 percent. But overall income inequality is now at its worst since 1928. As the chart by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows here, between 1979 and 2005, households at the bottom fifth of the income scale have seen an average, inflation-adjusted income growth of just $200. The $200 figure does not represent an average annual increase in income, but rather an increase of $200 over the entire 26-year period. By contrast, a small number of households at the top 0.1% of the income scale saw average income growth of almost $6 million over that same period.

In addition, the “wealth gap,” which differs from the income gap because it measures total net worth, is now 225 times greater between the richest 1 percent and the median family net worth.

Lest we forget, corporations are sitting on $1.93 trillion as of Sept. 30—up from $1.8 trillion at the end of June–and not using some of that money pot to create jobs. 

We already have a Scooge of the Year. But in many ways, the combined firms of Wall Street are Scrooge’s evil little elves.