State of Working America Wages 2019: A story of slow, uneven, and unequal wage growth over the last 40 years

Rising wage inequality and slow and uneven hourly wage growth for the vast majority of workers have been defining features of the U.S. labor market for the last four decades, despite steady (if too slow) productivity growth. In only 10 of the last 40 years did most workers see any consistent positive wage growth: in the tight labor market of the late 1990s and in the last five years (2014–2019), when the unemployment rate hit its lowest point in 50 years. Despite these gains, wage inequality continues to climb and workers at the middle and bottom of the wage scale are just making up lost ground and continue to struggle to make ends meet rather than get ahead. The median hourly wage—the wage at which half the workforce is paid more and half the workforce is paid less—stands at $19.33 per hour. For a full-time, full-year worker, this would translate into about $40,000 per year.