Wages Dropped 3.2% in 2009


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If it feels like you’ve had less money to play with in recent years, you’re certainly not alone.

Total wages and benefits paid out to American workers declined by 3.2% in 2009, largely due to an increase in the number of unemployed, according to new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Indeed, wages declined by nearly twice the rate that economists had predicted earlier this year.

Overall, the total compensation given to workers dropped in two-thirds of all counties in the country, with some regions experiencing a more severe decline. Residents of St. Louis, for example, saw their wages and benefits decline by 15.1% last year, and several counties in Michigan saw drops of nearly 30%.

According to the report, much of the decline in these and other parts of the country was due to a decrease in work for the manufacturing and construction industries, which resulted in many employees being laid off or working fewer hours.

But while the country as a whole may have seen wages and benefits drop, employed people actually saw their paychecks increase slightly in 2009.

The average salary for working Americans was $56,962, an increase of 1.2% from 2008. However, as we’ve reported before, the cost of consumer goods also increased in 2009, meaning these bigger paychecks bought fewer goods than they used to.

This year, consumers are certainly spending as though they have money to burn, but it will be interesting to see if next year’s numbers show that they had the paychecks to back it up.

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