Real Wages Fall again

Another victory in Bush’s “War on the Working Class” :

Even though the economy has been adding hundreds of thousands of jobs almost every month this year, stagnant wages could put a dent in the prospects for economic growth, some economists say. If incomes continue to lag behind the increase in prices, it may hinder the ability of ordinary workers to spend money at a healthy clip, undermining one of the pillars of the expansion so far.

Declining wages are likely to play a prominent role in the current presidential campaign. Growing employment has lifted President Bush’s job approval ratings on the economy of late. According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, in mid-July, 42 percent of those polled approved of the president’s handling of the economy, up from 38 percent in mid-March.

Yet Senator John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, is pointing to lackluster wages as a telling weakness in the administration’s economic track record. ``Americans feel squeezed between prices that are rising and incomes that are not,’’ Mark Mellman, a pollster for the campaign, said in a memorandum last month.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hourly earnings of production workers - nonmanagement workers ranging from nurses and teachers to hamburger flippers and assembly-line workers - fell 1.1 percent in June, after accounting for inflation. The June drop, the steepest decline since the depths of recession in mid-1991, came after a 0.8 percent fall in real hourly earnings in May.

Coming on top of a 12-minute drop in the average workweek, the decline in the hourly rate last month cut deeply into workers’ pay. In June, production workers took home $525.84 a week, on average. After accounting for inflation, this is about $8 less than they were pocketing last January, and is the lowest level of weekly pay since October 2001.