50% Of American Workers Make Less Than $28,031 A Year

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

The Social Security Administration has just released wage statistics for 2013, and the numbers are startling.  Last year, 50 percent of all American workers made less than $28,031, and 39 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000.  If you worked a full-time job at $10 an hour all year long with two weeks off, you would make $20,000.  So the fact that 39 percent of all workers made less than that amount is rather telling.  This is more evidence of the declining quality of the jobs in this country.  In many homes in America today, both parents are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. Our paychecks are stagnant while the cost of living just continues to soar.  And the jobs that are being added to the economy pay a lot less than the jobs lost in the last recession.  In fact, it has been estimated that the jobs that have been created since the last recession pay an average of 23 percent less than the jobs that were lost.  We are witnessing the slow-motion destruction of the middle class, and very few of our leaders seem to care.

The "average" yearly wage in America last year was just $43,041.  But after accounting for inflation, that was actually worse than the year before...

American paychecks shrank last year, just-released data show, further eroding the public’s purchasing power, which is so vital to economic growth.


Average pay for 2013 was $43,041 — down $79 from the previous year when measured in 2013 dollars. Worse, average pay fell $508 below the 2007 level, my analysis of the new Social Security Administration data shows.


Flat or declining average pay is a major reason so many Americans feel that the Great Recession never ended for them. A severe job shortage compounds that misery not just for workers but also for businesses trying to profit from selling goods and services.


Average pay declined in 59 of the 60 levels of worker pay the government reports each October.

And please keep in mind that "average pay" is really skewed by the millionaires and billionaires at the top end of the spectrum.

Median pay in 2013 was just $28,031.02.  That means that 50 percent of American workers made less than that number, and 50 percent of American workers made more than that number.

Here are some more numbers from the report that the Social Security Administration just released...

-39 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 last year.


-52 percent of American workers made less than $30,000 last year.


-63 percent of American workers made less than $40,000 last year.


-72 percent of American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

I don't know about you, but those numbers are deeply troubling to me.

It has been estimated that it takes approximately $50,000 a year to support a middle class lifestyle for a family of four, and so the fact that 72 percent of all workers make less than that amount shows how difficult it is for families that try to get by with just a single breadwinner.

The way that our economy is structured now, both parents usually have to work as hard as they can just to pay the bills.

But there was one group of Americans that did see their incomes actually increase last year.

Those making over 50 million dollars had their pay increase by an average of $12.8 million in 2013.

For everyone else, the news was not good.

And of course this is a trend that has been going on for a long time.

Posted below is a chart that comes from the Federal Reserve.  It shows how real median household income in the United States has declined since the year 2000...


Meanwhile, the cost of living has continued to rise at a steady pace.

Needless to say, this is putting a tremendous squeeze on the middle class.  With each passing day, more Americans are losing their spots in the middle class and this has pushed government dependence to an all-time high.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans now live in a home that receives money from the government each month.  This is completely and totally unsustainable, but our long-term economic problems just keep getting worse.

Our politicians have stood by as millions upon millions of good paying jobs have been shipped out of the country.  Millions of other middle class jobs have been lost to technology.  This has resulted in intense competition for the middle class jobs that remain.

And at this point we are even losing lots of lower paying retail jobs.  For example, it is being reported that Sears plans to close 110 more stores and lay off more than 6,000 workers.  Sears says that the report "isn't accurate", but it isn't denying that stores will be closed either...

In an email to USA Today, Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said the store count and closures "isn't accurate,'' but did not provide store closures or layoff numbers.


"As we stated in our (second quarter earnings report), we disclosed that we would be closing unprofitable stores as leases expire and in some cases will accelerate closings when it is economically prudent. And that we would consider closing additional stores during the remainder of the year,'' Riefs said. "Make no mistake, we believe the store will continue to play an integral role in our transformation, however, if a store is not generating a profit, it is straightforward that the store should be considered for closure."

No matter how many stores Sears does end up closing over the next few months, the truth is that our economy is a complete and total mess at this point.

Our politicians and the mainstream media are trying to put a happy face on everything, but the cold, hard numbers prove that we are not anywhere close to where we were prior to the last recession.

Because it is so difficult to find a good job in America today, I often recommend to people that they should consider starting their own businesses.

But thanks to the bureaucratic control freaks in the Obama administration and in our state governments, small business ownership in America today is at an all-time low.  It is almost as if they don't want the "little guy" to win.  Every avenue of prosperity for the middle class is under assault, and there does not appear to be much hope that this will change any time soon.

And the truly frightening thing is that this is about as good as things are going to get for the middle class.  We are rapidly approaching the next major wave of our long-term economic decline, but that is a topic for a future article.

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knukles's picture

I can't take it anymore.  I'm going for an MSNBC marathon.

zaphod's picture

The reality is $28K/year is still significantly higher than what many people throughout the world make, often people who worked and studied in school much harder than those in the US making <$30K.

There is no law that says humans born in the boundaries of present day America are guaranteed to forever to have lifestyles significantly better than the rest of the world, a world that today emphasizes and education and hardwork (which the US used to emphasize, but now promotes dependancy for votes supported by the petrodollar). I lived in Asia for awhile and the quality and work ethic there put the average person in my highschool and college to shame. 

Large portions of America's population has lived their life on the assumption that they can coast by in school and everything else, and just assume they will be provided for well. This has worked for a long time, so it will be a surprise when to them it stops, but it will stop eventually.

Pooper Popper's picture

Home of the sheep,

Land of the Slave!


economics9698's picture

Wars cost money.  Printing to pay for them coming out of the asses’ of the middle classes.  How stupid the sheeple are is what this should read.  Take a poll, 72% of the maroons want another war in Syria.

Publicus's picture

Ebola will fix this problem. Wage will skyrocket due to labor shortage.

Anusocracy's picture

The real problem:

Each year, the Cost of Government Center, in partnership with Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, calculates the Cost of Government Day. This day marks the point during the year when the average American has earned enough income to pay for his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government at the federal, state and local levels.

This year, the Cost of Government Day (COGD) falls on July 6. This means that Americans have to work 186 days out of the year in order to meet the costs imposed by the government. This will be the sixth consecutive year that COGD occurs in July. Before Obama took office in 2009, the latest calculated Cost of Government Day fell on June 27.

The total cost of government in 2014 is 51 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This year, Americans had to work 121 days to pay for total spending, which made up 33 percent of GDP. Americans worked 81 days to pay for federal spending and 40 days to pay for state and local spending. To pay for regulatory costs, Americans had to work 42 days to meet federal regulations and 23 days to meet state regulations. In total, regulatory costs amount to a full 17 percent of GDP.


max2205's picture

Please translate down to the 5th grade reading level so 90% of us can understand WTF you just said...


The9thDoctor's picture

Good article by Snyder. Hopefully he sticks to this format instead of numbered lists and doom porn.

Took Red Pill's picture

I was thinking the same thing! What? No numbered list?

jenniewadeguy's picture

I hope you are being sarcastic otherwise you are just a retard (which then makes you part of a bigger problem).

TheRedScourge's picture

That's not counting the debt or the deficit. Wait til that ship comes to port and it will be either a bankruptcy and a total reform, or a decade of all-December cost of government days.

flacon's picture

Home prices are double, triple, quadruple of what they were twenty years ago, and people are making a third, half, a quarter of what they were making. Something is wrong here, either people are going to all of a sudden earn more or home prices are going to collapse --> or we hyperinflate our way out of this. 

Pay Day Today's picture

Nothing is wrong here. The 1% who own most of the net financial wealth of this country think that a quadrupling of their property portfolio value is fine and dandy, thank you very much. For the 99%: just keep up with your rent and debt payments to the 1%, please.

new game's picture

a simple solution DID NOT  happen due to fascism, of course by law a corporation is an individual. tax the fuck out profits of shit not produced in america. hello, think about it. fox con would not be an assembly/production center for apple. hello again, apple wouldn't be getting to profit back to shareholders via bonds. hello again and again. if a corporation wants to outsource labor cost to china, vietnam or anywhere, then tax the living fuck out of that portion. it is called nationalism. but with lobbiests and fascism in place it will never happen. dont get me wrong i hate taxation in any form. but, it would have discouraged the great sucking sound ross perot warned of. sure some industries would have relocated irregardless, to survive world trade least common denominator of labor, mainly comodity type products. and sure cost of apples would even be higher or maybe instead of 38 percent margins, 20-24 percent and jobs here. any laws put in place via nafta ect. would be violated and/or changed because they could have. fuck clinton and his double speak when it was passed(nafta).it is called dealing with manipulators such as china with their peg.  call out the reality that corporations OWN politicians and middle class got fucked by 100's of laws that fucked the middle class and we voted this same bunch again and again while they fucked us over. people of merica just don't get it, but whine all the same, but fall for these disengeneous ads talking of bringing jobs back, when i know they would be lone voices(ron paul)up against a fascist lobby of corporations with more money to influence these treasonist elected fucks...

new game's picture

it is hopeless because we are on a path of no return. constitution trashed, people sheepol syndrome and money money and moar printed money(for free) run the shit show. we are fucked, and prepare for the shit storm of dolla demise. so many problems and so few informed people to make a difference...

Urban Redneck's picture

Wars may cost money but they can also pay huge dividends.

In the USSA, a serf can purchase a gallon of unleaded gasoline (31,000 kilocalories, 36 kilowatt hours, or 15.5 days of their USDA daily requirement) for a mere 2.25 hours of labor at the minimum slave wage.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

But, but, we are exceptional damit!!!


Hail Spode's picture

What turned Americans from hard workers a generation or two ago to sluggards today?  You said it yourself, the US PROMOTES DEPENDENCY.  As in, the government, as a matter of policy, promotes dependency.  Jefferson noted theire were two natural parties of man, one which felt that the mass of people could best rule themselves and the other that said it was best if they were ruled by an elite group.   I think the ruling class in DC (both parties) are of the latter philosophy and actively promote policies which turn the American people into people who need an elite to rule them.

The American Middle Class has values which are anathema to the idea of a global ruling elite, and since those types run both parties they implement policies which are ensuring that the American middle class is destroyed- such as the corporate tax code which rewards American corporations for becoming global corporations and outsourcing our manufacturing base. If they leave their profits at home they get taxed at one of the highest rates in the world, but if they make money off shore then they never have to pay U.S. Taxes on it, unless they bring it back home! You could not think of a tax policy more suited to offshoring American jobs.

Then they both tell us we can have “free trade” with unfree people. That the Chinese are now a “most favored nation” in trade status. That we should not put tariffs on Chinese goods even though they have a captive labor force of one billion human souls. They are like a gigantic 21st century plantation, but somehow our workers are supposed to compete against people that have virtual slaves.   Well, let me tell you something, trading on the labor of unfree people was the wrong way to get cheap cotton in 1850 and its the wrong way to get cheap junk from China now.

And the money. Don't look at the wages, look at the money and what they have done to it- both parties. When I was born the dollar could be exchanged for gold by any nation on earth, 35 dollars to the ounce. And our coins were made of silver, just common quarters and dimes were 90% silver. Today the melt value of each of those quarters from the year I was born is $3.35 per quarter. So four quarters from the year I was born have a melt value of $13.00 now. So a wage of $7.00 an hour in 1961 money would be like a wage of $91 an hour today!

What happened to our money? Our gold is gone and our silver is gone. It has been replaced by DEBT. Debt they now say that we owe to them. Instead of real money that naturally buys more as we get more productive they give us fake money that they can drain the value from. We now have to scramble for wage hikes just to stay even. They steal value from the dollar by over-printing. Then they give us a few government peanuts with some of what they stole. We see that and we think they are giving us free stuff. What they have really been doing is stealing from us in ways hard to detect and giving a little back with grand announcements and brass bands. The result is that people connected to government, to the political system, and to the global banks have gotten richer and the rest of us have gotten poorer. Both parties are hip deep in it. They are both all about going global, not looking out for America.

You want change for the better, here is where it starts. Here it is: Quit voting for the people whose policies have been robbing you blind. That's the first step. And until you take it, its not gonna get better.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Quit voting....PERIOD. Voting violates the nonaggression principle, and only encourages the welfare crack ho criminals that wil always infest seats of power (DC, Sacramento, City Hall, etc.)

stoneworker's picture

If you understand the nonagression principle perhaps you could explain it to me. "In contrast to nonviolence, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violence used in self-defense or defense of others." "Aggression, for the purposes of NAP, is defined as the initiation or threatening of violence against a person or legitimately owned property of another. Specifically, any unsolicited actions of others that physically affect an individual’s property or person, no matter if the result of those actions is damaging, beneficial, or neutral to the owner, are considered violent or aggressive when they are against the owner's free will and interfere with his right toself-determination and the principle of self-ownership."....this is from wikipedia. My question is this how does the non agression principle justify protecting you children....and how is property defined?...I am truly curious so if somebody can help me out I would be very grateful.

oooBooo's picture

People usually or at least often vote to use the government's monopoly on legal violence on others to benefit themselves or force their ideas/opinions on others. 

That's how voting violates the NAP.

For instance people with children vote to increase property taxes so the local schools can buy computers that are already obsolete at full list when they were the newest thing from a crony vendor. This is to benefit their children at the expense of those without school age children. 

Ofelas's picture

Germany asked for its 1300 tons of Gold, and were even denied to enter the vault! There is no Gold and Germany has lost 1300 tons

Pay Day Today's picture

It is corporate power, corporate greed and the corporate oligarchy are driving the middle classes into the ground. Today, Congress is no more than a campaign financed puppet doing their bidding against the American people.

new game's picture

plus one pay day, to the point with many fewer words than i was trying to post above...

Not My Real Name's picture

No, the problem is the government. Everything you speak of starts with a statist government.

Hopeless for Change's picture

 If you want equality on a global scale go wait tables in Bangladesh.  


Ofelas's picture

They are improving in BD, not fast and not anywhere near our standard but making progress without any meaningful resources, opposed to most of Africa

ArmyofOne's picture

If only the cost of living was as low as it was in other countries I would conceed your point. 

Zoomorph's picture


A higher wage for America was never fair, it was always earned by "exploiting" poorer countries. Nowadays people want to have their cake and eat it too: they want high wages for themselves AND high/"fair" wages for people in poorer countries. That simply cannot work; it's illogcal and stupidity. So keep in mind that every humanitarian execise and aid you praise or support comes out of our own pockets. If we can't bear to see the third world suffer then we'll pay for it dearly. If we want to be rich again then our military should be put to work enslaving the 3rd world to perform more work on our behalf, rather than "freeing" them and sponsoring political and economic development in their countries so that they can revolt against us and demand ever higher wages.

P.S. - Exploitation does not merely happen between countries, it also happens within America, and even within every single human social relationship to some degree. You can go ahead and cry about it, but until you man up and start behaving like a predator yourself you will always be the prey/loser in the equation.

livefreediefree's picture

It's ludicrous, zaphod, that you've gotten as many minuses as you've gotten (38 of em as I type) since your core thesis is true: Younger Americans, particularly Millenials, do not exert themselves like earlier generations did. Sure, lying Progressive propaganda in some large measure convinced them they didn't need to work as hard, but ultimately it's their fail.

oooBooo's picture

Except in most of the places where people make much less than 28K/yr. 28K/yr would allow a person to live like a king.In the USA not so much.

Why do people coast in the USA? Because working hard is for suckers. I've been a hard working sucker so I know. Work your ass off to get ahead and what happens to most of us? We get pounded down for being a nail that sticks up.Working hard on a treadmill is pointless.When the US starts rewarding hard work again instead of punishing it you'll see americans working hard more often. 

Lets face facts, most hard workers in this country won't live much better than the slackers. The penalty for slacking has been shifted from the slackers to the hard workers. We have an economy which benefits the financial parasites at the top also to the detriment of hard workers.Very few hard workers make it through the bariers to actually be paid what they are worth. But like Janet Yellen does, the victim is blamed. He just didn't do what he should have done in this system of financial repression.


Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

ha i was watching them as soon as i saw the school shooting thing on here. I wanted to see how long it would take them to trot someone out to talk about needing moar gun control. I didnt have to wait long....

Karaio's picture

I think I will go to the USA. 

It must be so nice to win some money without working. ... 


Pay Day Today's picture

Might be true if you born into one of the oligarchic families. A Bush, Biden or Clinton, for instance.

CASTBOUND's picture

my co-worker's sister makes $72 /hr on the computer . She has been unemployed for eight months but last month her check was $12806 just working on the computer for a few hours. check this... www.yelptrade.com

Dexter Morgan's picture

How hard is it to 86 this asshole?

Arnold's picture

I thought obvious satire was expected at the club.

LetThemEatRand's picture

This seems like the more significant number to me.  "72 percent of American workers made less than $50,000 last year."

That's 3/4 of Americans who can't even begin to afford a low end new car except on credit.  Henry Ford derived great success from paying workers enough to buy one of his new cars, and they didn't have car loans back then.  But it's probably considered socialist here on ZHDrudge to point that out.

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

i don't consider it socialist. He did so because he wanted to, there wasnt the 'gun to his head' force of govt making him do it, therefor it isnt socialist or authoritarian. Although I will say this- wealth inequality has gotten much worse in the past couple decades. During that time, do you think we have become a more, or less, free market economy?

LetThemEatRand's picture

More fascist.  I look at what corporations have done to our economy for the answer to the people we don't want in charge.  The Founders had this idea that the People could keep unelected oligarchs in check.  But they didn't count on MSM and Citizens United.  

economics9698's picture

Hey rand guys sit around on their ass all day printing money legally, there is your inequality.  Stop ragging on the producers, this is Zero Hedge, we know a fucking tribe banker when we see one.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Do you still teach at a public school hypocrite douchebag?  Since I pay your salary, can you spend a little less time posting on ZH and spend more time teaching?  

sun tzu's picture

Fascism means bigger government and more control. You are under the delusion that we can have a nanny state that also allows freedom and does what's best for the people. Unfortunately, those who strive for power are usually corrupt and control freaks. Most normal people don't want to be senators, presidents, or high ranking bureaucrats.

teslaberry's picture

every since society and civilization began, THIS WAS ALWAYS THE MAIN PROBLEM. those who are most power hungry and reckless are the ones most likley to strive to the throne. 


this is simply the defining feature of human history. how we got warlords, dictators, kings, the monarchs and now....democracy tadaaa!!!

hahaahh. francis fukuyama was never right. his bullshit was always government sponsored congratulation at a time when the democracy was beginning to openly fail. 

slavoj zizek talks about the coming technocracy autocracy of the apparatchiks. the west cannot really push forward without something breaking in the body politic.

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

it has become more fascist. which is the inevitable result of more govt. fascist or socialist, it doesnt matter. it is a more authoritarian govt that takes more from people, and gives less in return. You seem to have the idea that a big, but kind, gentle, and benevolent govt can exist, and help people. But it can't, and it won't. The more control you give to an unaccountable bueracracy, the worse off you will be. history is full of examples

livefreediefree's picture

Well, LetThemEatRand, Citizens United is allowing the Democrats to spend tens if not hundreds of millions more this election cycle than Republicans, since almost all of the billionaire fat cats (and the super PACS) are Democratic.

Therefore, do I think Citizens United should be trashed? Fuck, no. The radical left's assault on free speech is 1984-like in its virulence, intensity, and strength. Those of us who value freedom and liberty want more speech, and hang the consequences.

Pay Day Today's picture

corporations and too big to fail banks have sold you the illusion of a "free market economy." Its only truly free to those who get given hundreds of billions of newly minted cash, interest free. I bet that's not you.

nmewn's picture

Henry Ford wanted worker bees, same as Woodrow Wilson, fascists both.

“We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” - Woodrow Wilson