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Are wages keeping up with inflation? Depends on your job.

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A photo illustration shows building blocks stacked on top of each other in the shape of a staircase, while an arrow points up along the slope of that staircase to signal an increasing trend line.

Sure, wages are increasing right alongside prices right now. But, overall, prices are rising faster. Thitaree Sarmkasat/Getty Images

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Inflation’s now higher than it’s been in the last 40 years, and it’s got a lot of folks up in arms: economists, Federal Reserve officials, journalists. 

But what matters most for American consumers and workers is whether wages are keeping up with those soaring prices, and if wages are falling behind, by how much.

Average hourly earnings for all workers were up 5.7% in the past year — below the current 7.5% annual inflation. That means that overall, rising prices are eating away at the purchasing power of Americans’ paychecks.

But the picture’s different for different kinds of workers, said Claudia Sahm at the Jain Family Institute. 

“Where we see some of the biggest wage gains are at the bottom,” she said.

Wages are up almost 7% for production and non-supervisory workers. Workers in warehousing and leisure and hospitality have seen wage hikes of 9% and 15%, respectively —significantly outpacing price inflation. 

Nonetheless, financial distress is increasing among low-income workers, said John Leer at polling firm Morning Consult. 

“More job instability, and they’re also faced with rising prices for a larger share of their total spending,” he said, with basic necessities like groceries, utilities and rent eating up almost all their monthly incomes. 

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