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Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Work in the United States is a mixed bag: in many cases, you can get a job if you want one, even if you're a convicted felon, a former opioid addict, or have no resume to speak of. But if you are outside higher-skilled occupations, don't expect much in the way of outsize wages — or pay increases as time passes.

What's happening: In reports yesterday, the government said the U.S. economy is roaring into 2019 — but not wages.

  • Month-to-month employment growth, at 304,000 in January, was some four times the 60,000-80,000 required to absorb new entrants to the work force, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
  • That was the 100th straight month of job growth — by far the longest streak since the number has been tracked in the 1930s.

And the economic expansion is now just five months shy of a record. As one example, factory production picked up steam last month, rising to 56.6 on the Institute for Supply Management Index (above 50 means expansion), up from 54.2 in December.

  • "Usually, as expansions go on, they slow down a little bit. But it's really unclear when that is going to happen," said Martha Gimbel, research director at Indeed's Hiring Lab.
  • "Job seekers are still in the driver seat," said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, the jobs site.

But, but, but: Though wages grew by 3.2%, or 1.3% after accounting for inflation, that is about half what it should be, said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM.

  • "At this point in the business cycle, we traditionally have 4% to 5% nominal wage gains," he said, and about 2.5% after inflation.
  • "It was another month of anemic gains in hourly wages," Brusuelas said.

Like a growing number of economists, Brusuelas blames monopsony wage-setting power enjoyed by large companies that dominate metropolitan population areas. "They are so large, they are able to set a prevailing wage" that other companies then follow, he said

The bottom line: "Large behemoths essentially set wages," Brusuelas said. "This creates a ceiling that wages are simply not going to move above."

Go deeper: Now hiring — ex-cons, drug users, and indebted grads

Go deeper

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.

Read: Former Vice President Walter Mondale's last message

Photo courtesy of Mondale.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale wrote a farewell letter to his staff, sent upon his death on Monday, thanking them for years working together.

Dear Team,

Well my time has come. I am eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor. Before I Go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me. Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side!

Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight.

Joe in the White House certainly helps.

I always knew it would be okay if I arrived some place and was greeted by one of you!

My best to all of you!

Fritz