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12/28/2004

Hourly Workers Continue to Lose Ground to Inflation

According to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) latest survey, most U.S. workers’ average weekly earnings dropped for the second month in a row as the consumer price index rose 0.6 percent for October and 0.2 percent for the month of November.

Last month hourly earnings shrank by about 0.4 percent as American worker paychecks failed to keep pace with inflation. Taking inflation into account, real weekly earnings totaled $277.72 in November 2004, as compared with $283.70 in November 2003.

For the year ending in November average earnings have declined 1.6 percent. The survey points out that 11 of 13 specific industry sectors have seen wages declining over the past 12 months.

For workers earning minimum wages, the squeeze on earnings only adds to their troubles as they try to meet rising rent and utility costs. More and more state governments are looking at raising the minimum wage to ease the burden on low-wage workers.

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