More economics from the trenches

Gordon Mohr
Tue, 30 Apr 2002 10:13:34 -0500

Owen Byrne writes:
> Sorry mixing LPNs with Nurse Practitioners. 

Could you put a little [*] next to the one or more errors that you sprinkle
into each of your messages, so we don't have to wait for them to be pointed
out later?

> At this point in my life I really wish I had employment in a 
> traditionally female field of labor. Everyone is overworked and underpaid. 

Huh? You *want* to be "overworked and underpaid"? 

And in a separate message Owen writes:
> That's because the in non-tech industries have been in recession since the
> last Bush was in office. 

Non-anecdotal evidence, please?

> Tech was the driver of growth. One non-technical
> company I worked for put a wage freeze in place for all its workers in 1984.
> Its still in place. Another cut salaries by 20% twice in the 1990s. 

And the experience of exactly two companies is important and 
representative of the entire American (or North American economy)

> In the
> United States, home of wealth and prosperity, the average salary increase
> after inflation from 1980 - 1995 was 4% (I don't have a source, I heard it
> on the radio). That's not annual salary increase, that's total. 

That section should have had a little, "[*] NOT TRUE" notation!

I'll see your "I heard it on the radio" statistic-of-unclear-origin-and-
credibility and raise it with a published source, with actual statitistics 
and quotes from people who've been carefully studying the economy. See:

The main point:

    The key is that wage growth accelerated dramatically for most 
    American workers in the 1990s business cycle. Real wage gains 
    for private-sector workers averaged 1.3% a year, from the beginning 
    of the expansion in March, 1991, to the apparent end of the recession 
    in December, 2001. That's far better than the 0.2% annual wage gain 
    in the 1980s business cycle, from November, 1982, to March, 1991. The 
    gains were also better distributed than in the previous decade. 
    Falling unemployment put many more people to work and swelled salaries 
    across the board: Everyone from top managers to factory workers to 
    hairdressers benefited. Indeed, the past few years have been "the best 
    period of wage growth at the bottom in the last 30 years," says 
    Lawrence F. Katz, a labor economist at Harvard University.

There's lots more good hard data in the article. Note that the key driver
identified for this effect -- low unemployment -- continued through the
2001 recession. The 2001 recession-year US unemployment rate, 4.8%, was 
still lower than the unemployment rate of any year 1970-1997. 

> I think that
> if you take away technology, you get the picture that most non-tech workers
> will give you - their standard of living is declining everyday, and has been
> for 20 years.

You "think" this but have no evidence beyond crankiness to that effect.

- Gordon