Wages Here and Wages There


A topic that I’ve returned to repeatedly here is that averages don’t really tell you the story of today’s economy. The map above, from this report at Pew Research really caught my eye:

Workers in America’s oil and gas patches have enjoyed some of the country’s biggest gains in the buying power of their paychecks over the past decade and a half, while workers in several small and mid-sized manufacturing-oriented cities have watched their buying power shrink over the same time period.

A Pew Research Center analysis of federal wage data found that since 2000, most of the biggest inflation-adjusted gains in average weekly wages have occurred in metropolitan areas that have directly benefited from the boom in U.S. energy production – places like Midland and Odessa, Texas; Bismarck, North Dakota; Casper, Wyoming; and Houma and Lake Charles, Louisiana.

With the end of the oil boom a lot of those gains have now been given up.

Note a couple of things about that map. First, it’s very spotty—wage gains aren’t spread evenly across the country. Second, the increases in wages from oil-producing areas pointed out in the report.

Third, real wages over the 15 year period have really been pretty flat. But fourth, the areas surrounding state capitols with only a few rare exceptions are doing better than other areas in their states.

That tells an important story that hasn’t been emphasized enough. I think it also highlights why the primary election cycle proceeded as it did.

Hat tip: Zero Hedge

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