California is in the midst of an economic recovery – but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the paychecks of middle-income workers: Wages are lower than they were four years ago, and buying power for middle earners continues to erode.
When you adjust for inflation, middle class incomes in Californians have fallen more than six percent since 2006 and the start of the recession. That’s more than triple the decline nationwide, according to new research by the California Budget and Policy Center.
The Sacramento-based think tank says a typical middle-income worker in California earns a little more than $19 dollars an hour. That’s down about two percent from 2011, when the unemployment rate in the state was above 11 percent. The current unemployment rate is just over six percent – but the improving job market has not translated into economic gains for the state’s middle class.
The report says middle-class wage stagnation has been especially challenging, because it comes at a time when housing prices have soared in California.
Lower income workers have also suffered wage declines since the recession, but middle-class workers have been hit the hardest. Luke Reidenbach, one of the report’s authors, tells the L.A. Times that middle-class earners “are feeling a very specific pinch right now.”
The richest among us, on the other hand, are doing well: folks with incomes in the top 10 percent of all Californians are the only group that has not experienced a wage decline. Meanwhile, it takes a year for a typical middle income person to earn what someone in the top one percent makes in a week.