We haven’t seen much in wage gains out of recent jobs reports from the Labor Department. The most recent one, for June, showed average hourly wages, as reported by employers, up just 2.5 percent over the past year, not much better than inflation. But another measure of income from the Labor Department, based on a survey of American households, is telling a more upbeat story. That report, called “Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers,” showed median earnings up 4.2 percent, compared to the second quarter one year ago. With prices only going up about half as fast, that means people have more purchasing power. And after years of anemic wage gains, the lowest-wage workers — the bottom 10th — are now sharing these gains. Workers are now in demand at every level of the job market, especially service sectors like hospitality and health care that don’t require more than a high-school education.
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