The better than expected employment report from the Labor Department indicated that total U.S. non-farm employment grew by 274,000 jobs in April, or at a monthly rate of 0.21 percent – a rate that is about average for the U.S. economy over the course of the post-World War II period, but well below the normal pace of job growth for a period of economic recovery.
More disturbing was the continued trend of flat to negative growth in real wages. Average hourly wages for production and non-supervisory employees increased in nominal terms from $15.95 to $16.00, or by 0.3 percent. If price increases in April keep pace with those of the previous six months, real wages will be flat. If they keep pace with the increases of the past three months, real wages will once again be negative. In either case, real hourly earnings will be at least 28 cents or about 2 percent below the levels of December 2003.
Secretary Snow's insistence that this troubling performance is an indication of the success of the president's tax program indicates that he measures success in very different terms than American workers and their families. Continued success in these terms will have half the country living in poverty in another two decades.
Scott Lilly is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.