It's been awhile since most American workers have seen a decent raise. And a lot of them are getting fed up.
As the government's monthly employment data continue to show a sustained pickup in hiring, the pool of jobless workers on the sidelines—ready to take whatever pay they can get—has been shrinking. When labor markets tighten, and there are fewer jobless candidates for each new position, Economics 101 suggests that wages should start rising.
Judging from the latest monthly wage data, workers looking for a raise may be disappointed.
American employers expanded their payrolls by roughly a quarter million new jobs last month, capping a year that saw overall employment levels rising by nearly 3 million. That's the best annual showing since the end of the Go-Go '90s.
But economic growth underlying that payroll expansion has yet to translate into economic benefits for workers. Even as the jobless rate fell to 5.6 percent, employers felt little need to boost wages to fill new positions or keep their existing workers happy. Adjusted for inflation, hourly earnings actually fell 0.2 percent in December from the previous month, and November's gain was cut in half to 0.2 percent. Hourly wages ended 2014 just 1.7 percent higher than a year earlier.
That's a lot less than the 3 to 5 percent raise that roughly half of those surveyed by job site Glassdoor say they're expecting this year. About a third of those counting on a bigger paycheck said they'd look for a new job if they don't get it. In a separate survey commissioned by job site CareerBuilder, 2 in 5 workers said they didn't get a raise last year, and half of them plan to find a new job this year.