WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even after adjusting for inflation, low- and middle-income workers posted notable wage gains for the third quarter of 2022, while the percentage of Black and Hispanic workers in full-time, living-wage jobs is at its highest level since 1995, according to an analysis by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP).
LISEP issued its monthly True Rate of Unemployment (TRU) for September in conjunction with the quarterly True Weekly Earnings (TWE) report for the third quarter of 2022. TRU is a measure of the functionally unemployed -- the jobless, plus those seeking but unable to secure full-time employment paying above the poverty line. TWE is a measure of median weekly earnings after adjusting for inflation, and differs from the data issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) through inclusion of all members of the workforce, including part-time workers and those actively seeking employment.
LISEP’s TWE reports median weekly earnings for Q3 of $920, up from $907 for Q2, even after adjusting for inflation. At 2.93%, Hispanic wage earners saw the largest increase, from $733 to $755 a week, with White workers seeing a 1.5% increase ($996 to $1,011), followed by Black workers, with a 0.36% increase ($758 to $761). Men saw a 1.9% increase in TWE ($1,017 to $1,036), with women posting a 1.1% increase ($798 to $806).
Wage earners on the lower end of the spectrum — the 25th percentile — saw their real earnings increase by 1.2%, while those in the 75th percentile saw wages increase by 1.25%. Those at the high end of the scale, at the 90th percentile, saw inflation-adjusted earnings decrease by 1.2%.
This report includes positive news for middle-income earners, according to LISEP chairman Gene Ludwig.
“Inflation has presented challenges for all levels of earners, but particularly among middle- and lower-income families,” Ludwig said. “Yet it is encouraging to see that these households are holding their own, and even making marginal gains, in spite of rising living costs.”
LISEP’s employment report was equally encouraging, with a larger percentage of the American workforce finding full-time, living-wage jobs. The September TRU dropped 0.3 percentage points, to 22.3%, with the rate for Hispanic workers dropping 2.6 percentage points, to 23.5%, and the TRU for Black workers falling 1.5 percentage points, to 24.8%. Both figures represent the lowest TRU for these groups dating back to 1995, the first year for which LISEP has data.
The TRU for White workers increased by 0.9 percentage points, to 21.8%. The TRU for male workers decreased 1.3 percentage points, to 17.2%, while for women the rate increased by 0.9 percentage points, to 28.1%.
“On the whole this is a good report as far as increasing employment opportunities and living wages for middle- and lower-income families. But we know inflation, coupled with rising interest rates, are a threat to middle- and low-income families — something policymakers need to watch very closely” Ludwig said.