U.S. workers have endured "a decade of flat wages," study says

(CBS News) NEW YORK - There are new signs of recovery in the housing market, and the signs say "sold."

American realtors reported Wednesday that sales of used homes shot up 6.5 percent last month. In fact, homes have been selling this summer at the fastest pace in six years.

What is not recovering in this economy is wages.

Job-seekers line up for a carpenter apprenticeship in New York in a "CBS Evening News" segment broadcast Aug. 21, 2013.
Job-seekers line up for a carpenter apprenticeship in New York in a "CBS Evening News" segment broadcast Aug. 21, 2013.
CBS

More than 1,500 people stood in line at the carpenters union in New York City just for a chance to land an apprenticeship. Some of the applicants were in line a week for jobs that start at $45 an hour.

James, a job-seeker, describes the importance of a carpenter apprenticeship in New York.
James, a job-seeker, describes the importance of a carpenter apprenticeship in New York.
CBS

"You're not going to be a doctor or a scientist; you can't beat this blue-collar job," said one job-seeker named James. "You know, this is a great job, and that's why there's lots and lots of people here because, you know, they just don't hand out jobs like this every day."

A majority of U.S. workers have experienced a decade of flat wages, according to new research by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

It found the median weekly wage last year was $768. That's the same as 12 years earlier when adjusted for inflation. Over that same period, wages fell for 70 percent of workers.

Economists place much of the blame on a labor market that hasn't recovered from the Great Recession.

Craig Carr talks about a carpenter job he got in 2007.
Craig Carr talks about a carpenter job he got in 2007.
CBS

"I've had friends that went to four years of college, did four years of college, and graduated and waited years to even get a job," Craig Carr said.

He considers himself lucky. He waited on that carpenter line for three days back in 2007, before the recession hit. He's now earning $48 an hour.

"You're not living like a millionaire, but you're not looking to scrap ends to make ends meet," Carr said.

College graduates earn about $400 more per week than high-school graduates, but, according to that study, that number is shrinking too.

  • Terrell Brown

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