Sep 22, 2023 - News

Inflation wiped out Iowans' wage increases last year

Change in median household income, 2019 to 2022
Data: U.S. Census; Map: Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Despite wage bumps for local workers last year, inflation wiped out any monetary gains for Des Moines households, according to new U.S. Census data.

Why it matters: Iowa families feel the pain when they're buying groceries or fueling up, though it likely hasn't been significant enough to cause major changes in leisure spending, University of Iowa economics professor Anne Villamil tells Axios.

Driving the news: The census' 2022 American Community Survey results show that real median incomes when adjusted for inflation declined in both the Des Moines metro and Iowa between 2019 and 2022.

By the numbers: Des Moines' metro median household income was $80,061 in 2022, compared with $82,264 in 2019, adjusted for inflation.

  • Meanwhile, the share of metro households making between $50,000 and $75,000 annually decreased from 19% to 17% during that time period, while the share making over $100,000 increased from 33% to 40%.
Change in the share of Des Moines metro area households, by income
Data: U.S. Census; Map: Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

What they're saying: While employees across the board got pay increases, "they were just increases that were not keeping up with inflation," Villamil says.

The intrigue: While income declined for higher-earning workers, it actually increased nationally for those without high school degrees.

Zoom in: That's reflected in Iowa's numbers. Des Moines' median wages changed -2.7% while statewide figures were less severe at -2.4%.

  • A reason could be that Des Moines relies more heavily on jobs in the finance industry, while manufacturing is the state's largest employer and requires less education.
  • Manufacturing is suffering from a worker shortage, prompting employers to offer higher wages, Villamil says.

What we're watching: Inflation is cooling down and more recent numbers are promising, Villamil says.

  • At its peak, U.S. inflation was 9.1% in June 2022. Last month, it was 3.4% nationally and 3% in Iowa.

Go deeper: Where America stands

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