Less Fruits Of More Labor: Workers Less Satisfied With Benefits And Wages

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September 5, 2011 8:40 a.m.

Monday is Labor Day, a day off for most Americans who spend a good deal of their lives toiling at work. It’s also a stark reminder to those who don’t need reminding: the unemployed and the underemployed. But even those have a job are seeing less and less in returns from that job, says new data from Gallup released Monday. Nearly across the board employees are less satisfied with their health care benefits, their chances for a promotion, job security, and of course, wages.

But all is not lost among those with work. In fact, the survey shows a near high in terms of people who are satisfied with their job, 47 percent, up from 35 in the booming economic times of the late 90s, and just down from 50 percent in 2009. So it seems that though many Americans are less pleased about the individual aspects of their jobs, having one still counts for a lot given the times.The largest individual increase was in dissatisfaction with workers’ health benefit packages, which jumped 11 percent. It’s an interesting result given what’s happened in terms of government action on health care: just last week the Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll showing most Americans don’t think the new health care law will help at all when its components are enacted, even though many are aimed at improving health benefits (upping the minimum coverage benefits of health plans, maintaining coverage despite pre-existing conditions). Combining the two surveys shows that while Americans continue to view their health care as more of a problem, they still disagree disfavor the last Congress’s attempt to improve the situation, maintaining a 44 percent unfavorable view of the new law against 39 favorability.

The second highest level of total dissatisfaction was related to wages. Over 70 percent of respondents were at least somewhat unhappy with the amount of money they were making, which in common sense terms, seems like it would be a high number to begin with. After all, Gallup tracks the rate of underemployment too, and surprise, it’s high. But a look at national data on wages paints such a stark picture that people have a reason to be upset.

The Economic Policy Institute released a number of data points before Labor Day weekend spelling out just how anemic wage growth has been in the middle class over the last ten years. From their rundown:

SO FAR IN 2011, ANNUALIZED INFLATION-ADJUSTED WAGE GROWTH IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR HAS BEEN -1.6%.

–Annualized inflation-adjusted growth from 2000 to 2010 for people with a high school diploma was only 0.1%.

–Annualized inflation-adjusted wage growth from 2000 to 2010 for people with a bachelor’s degree was 0.3%.

–Annualized productivity growth from 2000 to 2010 in the nonfarm business sector was 2.5%.

Of course the fact that wage growth has been flat isn’t new, but the severity of the condition continues to be historic. Data from June of this year showed the last comparable era was the Great Depression. It’s an incredible reminder that Labor Day has taken on new meaning in the US after the financial crisis.

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