The real earnings of American workers fell for the fifth consecutive month in May as inflation erased all of the month’s wage gains and more.
Real average hourly earnings for working Americans fell 0.1 percent in May compared with April, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Thursday show.
This decline in real earnings occurred even though average hourly earnings increased as employers scrambled to fill open positions. What happened was that these wage gains were more than offset by the increase of 0.6 percent in the Consumer Price Index. So Americans were paid more but those gains were swamped by inflation.
Average weekly real earnings fell as well, dropping to $334.09 from $335.60, even though there was no change in the average hours worked.
The wage decline was even more pronounced for workers the government describes as “production and nonsupervisory employees”—in other words, not the bosses. These workers saw a 0.2 percent decline in May because their 0.4 percent wage increase was overwhelmed by the rise in prices.
Real average weekly earnings for these employees fell 0.4 percent over the month due to the change in real average hourly earnings combined with a decrease of 0.3 percent in average weekly hours.
This was the fifth consecutive month in which inflation-adjusted hourly earnings fell and the fourth in which weekly earnings fell. As a result, after inflation earnings of Americans have declined in every month in which Joe Biden has been president. This is the longest consecutive string of monthly real earnings declines in records going back to 2007, matching the five month decline seen last year at height of pandemic lockdowns.