In New York, in May. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

U.S. workers saw their largest year-on-year wage increase in a decade, but it was still too small — and inflation too high — to signal a clear break from the long period of income stagnation.

What's happening: For almost a decade, weak wage growth has defied the economic recovery and has bedeviled workers. But wages and salaries grew 3.1% year-over-year in the third quarter. That was larger than the 2.5% increase in inflation, but still not a lot, economists say.

  • "Real wage growth is almost nil during the last year," says Laurence Ales, an economics professor at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. "The Federal Reserve forecasts a stable outlook for inflation at about 2%. Hence, the real wage gain will remain subdued in the near future."

The bottom line: "A few good quarters doesn’t make up for years of stagnation," Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Joe Biden and now a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, tells Axios. "What’s remarkable is how long it takes in contemporary economic expansions before people who depend on paychecks vs. portfolios catch a break."

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

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