Pay soared for the lowest-wage workers over the past three years
Pay rose at historically fast rates for low-wage workers in the U.S. between 2019 and 2022, even after adjusting for inflation, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute released Thursday morning.
What happened: The tight labor market and disruptions from the pandemic gave folks at the lowest end of the pay scale unprecedented amounts of leverage over employers.
- The mass layoffs of 2020 combined with ample relief money from the government, actually put workers in a better position — with time away from work and resources to fall back on — to find new jobs once the market came back.
- "For so many people, they didn't actually realize that there might be better opportunities out there," said Elise Gould, a senior economist at the progressive think tank, who co-wrote the analysis.
Reality check: These folks are still not making much money.
- In 2022, the 10th percentile hourly wage, i.e. the workers at the bottom, was $12.57.
- That's not considered enough for one person to maintain an adequate standard of living anywhere in the U.S., according to EPI's calculations.
Worth noting: Those at the very, very top saw enormous gains.
- Wages for the top 1% and 0.1% rose 16.1% and 29.2% between 2019 and 2021, according to Social Security Administration data also analyzed by EPI.