In my last post, I discussed how MECEP’s recently released report, The State of Working Maine in 2013, delves beyond the official monthly employment reports for more revealing data about how many Maine workers continue to struggle to find full time jobs. But having a job is only part of the equation. Since most people work because they need wages to support themselves and their families, a closer look at their wages and how well they share in the benefits of prosperity are also important considerations. In the report, economist Joel Johnson provides significant and enlightening data:
Wages for the poorest fifth of Mainers have been flat for the past 34 years. The poorest 20% of Maine workers (10th and 20th percentiles) have seen their real wages decline since 2000.
Wage growth for the median Maine worker began to stagnate in the late 1980s. The median wage didn’t grow at all over the past decade and has grown by less than a dollar since 1990.
Meanwhile, the highest wage earners have enjoyed relatively steady income growth over the past thirty-plus years. The top 10% of wage and salary earners (90th percentile) experienced a 12.4% increase in real wages between 2002 and 2012.
“Even with a job, many Mainers find their wages insufficient to support them and their families,” Joel writes. “Wages and incomes are not keeping pace with the growth in productivity or the growth of the overall economy.
Prospects for people at the bottom, those earning the minimum wage, are not getting better. Currently, Maine’s minimum wage is $7.50/hour, dramatically below the $9.06/hour inflation-adjusted Maine minimum wage in 1968. Last year, Governor LePage vetoed legislation to raise Maine’s minimum wage to $9.00/hour over the course of three years and automatically adjust it to inflation in the future.
“The average worker currently making less than $9.00/hour would have received an annual raise of $1,100,” Joel noted adding that it “would have raised the wages of 66,000 Maine workers by a total of $48 million.”
For more, check out the full report here and look for future blog posts on other findings it contains about The State of Working Maine in 2013.