The Inflation rate for 2014 was low at 1.62 percent, but generally more than dollar wage increases. America has 26 occupations with at least a million people employed in 2014, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports have total employment of 50.5 million. Among the 26 occupations 18 of them had a decrease in real wages; eight had an increase, but the highest increase of the 8 was only .58 percent.
Occupations with lower buying power for 2014 include jobs from management, finance, education, health care, sales, office administration, maintenance and repair, manufacturing and transportation. One of the 26 occupations mentioned is in management: general and operations managers. Its percentage increase in median wages from 2013 to 2014 was .87 compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $96,460 for general and operations managers increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $97,994.31. Instead it is $97,270, a -.74 percent decrease in the real wage.
Accountants and auditors had 1.2 million employed in 2014 with a reported 2014 median wage of $65,940, more than the 2013 median wage of $65,080, but not enough to keep up with inflation. Buying power declined by -.3 percent.
Elementary school teachers had 1.4 million employed in 2014 with a median wage of $54,120, more than the 2013 median wage of $53,540, but real wages declined -.62 percent as a result of inflation. Registered nurses had 2.7 million employed with a 2014 median wage of $66,640, the 2014 increase did not keep up with inflation and registered nurses had a -.97 percent decrease in buying power for 2014.
America’s two biggest occupations are retail salesperson with 4.6 million jobs and cashier with 3.4 million jobs. For retail salespersons the percentage increase in median wages from 2013 to 2014 was 1.18 percent compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $21,140 for retail salesperson increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $21,482.94. Instead it is $21,390, a -.43 percent decrease in the real wage.
For cashiers the median wages from 2013 to 2014 were up .53 percent compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $18,960 for cashiers increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $19,267.57. Instead it is $19,060,
a –1.08 percent decrease in the real wage.
Comparing other years than 2013 with 2014 can give a more complete picture of wage changes. For example, with accountants and auditors the real wage declined from 2013 to 2014, but comparing 2000 wages with 2014 looks much better. For accountants and auditors the 2000 median wage of $45,380 would need to increase to $60,687.98 in 2014 to keep up with the rate of inflation through 2014. Instead it is $65,940, an 8.65 percent increase in the real wage for the 14 years.
For accountants and auditors the decline from 2013 to 2014 looks like a temporary set back in a general upward trend of real wages. In contrast for cashiers real wages are down in 2014 compared to any year of the last 15 years. Median wages adjusted for inflation were down 1.08 percent from 2013 to 2014, down 2.56 percent from 2012 to 2014, down 3.77 percent from 2011 to 2014, down 5.1 percent for 2010 to 2014, down 4.12 percent from 2000 to 2014. For cashiers the 2000 median wage of $14,460 would need to increase to $19,879.23 in 2014 to keep up with the rate of inflation. Instead it is $19,060, hence the 4.12 percent decline.
None of the major occupational categories escaped a decline in wages compared to inflation. In the 34 managerial occupations 13 had real wage declines for 2014 over 2013. However, 53 percent of those employed as managers lost buying power including all of those in education administration.
Food preparation and serving related occupations had the broadest losses with 16 of 18 occupations losing compared to inflation, or 98 percent of food service and restaurant jobs out of a total of 11.9 million in food service occupations losing ground on inflation. Cashier and retail salespersons are two sales occupations, but 14 out of 22 sales occupations show a real wage decline where 85 percent of jobs in sales lost buying power because wage increases did not keep up with inflation.
In health care 26 out of 62 occupations showed a real wage decline. Because some of the more important jobs like registered nurse show real wage declines, almost 73 percent of health care jobs did not keep up with inflation from 2013 to 2014. Computing occupations did relatively well, but some had real wage declines. Web developers had a 2013 median wage of $63,160, but needed to increase to $64,184.60 to equal the rate of inflation through 2014. Instead it is $63,490, a –1.08 percent decrease in the real wage.
The data used here comes from the Occupational Employment Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It offers a comprehensive and consistent method to survey and compare wage data. It is not infallible, but it shows broad and troubling losses in buying power for millions of wage earners.
The past year was a good year for jobs with 3.1 million new jobs for the 12 months ending December 2014. The press and other media discussed the new jobs as a good thing, generally without reservation. However, stagnant or falling wages encourages new hiring in the short run and so the new jobs went with stagnant wages. Millions more work but their jobs contribute to wage and income inequality. Productivity, output per hour of work, continues to rise. Wages need to rise by the amount of inflation plus at least the annual increase in productivity to be a good year for wages. More jobs are good, but a good year needs more jobs with more buying power. It did not happen in 2014. Maybe another year?