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Have Wages Kept Up With Inflation?



This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Felix Richter


One of the reasons why people are so concerned with inflation is the fact that high inflation hits consumers right where it hurts: the wallet. In times of high inflation, when prices increase faster than nominal wages, real wages go down, meaning that workers see (and feel) the purchasing power of their income decline.


During the current inflation crisis, this has been the case from April 2021 to April 2023, when average real hourly earnings declined for 25 consecutive months on a year-over-year basis. In May 2023, real wages began to rise again as nominal wage growth outpaced inflation once again as it normally should.


By looking at cumulative wage growth and price increases since January 2020, we can answer the question of whether or not wages have kept up with inflation over the past four and half years. The answer is: yes, but just barely. While nominal wages have increased 22.7 percent since the beginning of 2020, consumer prices have also surged by 21.0 percent on aggregate. This leaves real wage growth at a meager 1.5 percent for the entirety of the past four and half years, which is equivalent to an annual (real) pay increase of 0.3 percent.


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