Above Photo: Anjan Sarkar/Flickr
We’re in the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, but the top line numbers don’t tell the whole truth. Low unemployment is finally starting to produce some wage gains, but it is going to take much more to raise living standards for wide swaths of the workforce.
Black unemployment and underemployment is still too high, black college graduates have seen their wages fall, inaction from federal policymakers on the minimum wage has dropped the wage floor from under workers at the low end of the wage ladder, and workers are still thwarted in their efforts to bargain collectively for better wages from their employers. Tax cuts for the rich have not trickled down, as history told us they would not. And claims that we can boost wages broadly by asking workers to get more education make little sense when almost two-thirds of the jobs now require—and 10 years from now will require—no education beyond high school.
On the bright side, we know from the evidence that certain policies like prioritizing full employment (by the Fed) and raising minimum wages (in the states) do make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. And teachers have shown that calling attention to disinvestment—in their case, the disinvestment in America’s schools—can bring about real change. Following are the charts that tell the story of the economic lessons of 2019.