Wage Growth In America Has Never Been Higher... For Your Boss

Tyler Durden's picture

Several weeks ago we revealed the "The Mystery Of America's Missing Wage Growth" in which we showed why matter how hard the Fed tries to push the S&P 500 higher (and it has certainly done an admirable job of manipulating the market to record highs), it has over the past 7 years failed to trickle down any of this redistributed "wealth" in the form of rising wages for US workers. Or rather, for most US workers. Because as usually happens, this is a story with two parts.

First, as a reminder, the main reason why wage growth remains subdued, and 50% below the Fed's target, has to do with what continues to be record slack in the economy, manifesting itself most recently in the form of a record 93.2 million Americans who have voluntarily or otherwise, exited the US labor force.  This can best be seen on the following chart comparing the undistorted employment-to-population ratio chart with wholesale wage growth for all employees.


It is here that things get interesting, because as the BLS itself breaks down the quality of the US labor force, there are two groups of workers: supervisory and non-supervisory. This is how the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the all important former category:

Production and related employees include working supervisors and all nonsupervisory employees (including group leaders and trainees) engaged in fabricating, processing, assembling, inspecting, receiving, storing, handling, packing, warehousing, shipping, trucking, hauling, maintenance, repair, janitorial, guard services, product development, auxiliary production for plant's own use (for example, power plant), recordkeeping, and other services closely associated with the above production operations.


Nonsupervisory employees include  those individuals in private, service-providing industries who are not above the working-supervisor level. This group includes individuals such as office and clerical workers, repairers, salespersons, operators, drivers, physicians, lawyers, accountants, nurses, social workers, research aides, teachers, drafters, photographers, beauticians, musicians, restaurant workers, custodial workers, attendants, line installers and repairers, laborers, janitors, guards, and other employees at similar occupational levels whose services are closely associated with those of the employees listed.

According to the BLS there were 98.4 million "prouduction and non-supervisory" private workers in March, or 82.5% of the total 119.3 million private workers employed in the same month.

This also means that there are about 17.5% supervisory, or "boss" jobs in the US.

It is the distinction between the two that is critical. Because as the BLS also reported today, in addition to a disappointing 2.1% wage growth for all US employees, this was accompanied by an even more disappointing 1.56% annual increase in compensation for the majority of America, i.e., its non-supervisory workers, whose average hourly earnings rose from $20.50/hour a year ago to $20.86 in March.

As the chart below shows, not only is wage growth for 83% of America non-existant, it has in fact stalled into what appears to be a recessionary wall.


But, if wage growth for over 80% of America's workers is sliding even as wage growth for all American is flat, that must mean that the wage growth for the tiny 17% of America that is its bosses and supervisors must be soaring.

And sure enough, it is.

In fact, as the chart below shows, wage growth of "supervisory" workers has never been higher!

So the next time your boss or some other handsomely paid "supervisor" appears on CNBC and, dumbfounded, proclaims that there is tons of wage growth, they will be absolutely correct... when referring to their own wage situation, and that of the other 20 million or some private American workers who are not a part of that "lowest" class of US society - its nonsupervisory workers.

So for all those 98.4 million "non-supervisory" workers trapped in wage hell and what increasingly - to them if not to their bosses - looks like a recession, here is a simple solution: demand to be promoted.

Good luck.

Source: BLS

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froze25's picture

Being a supervisor isn't all its cracked up to be.  With the continued dumbing down of the population, the feeling of entitlement by employee's, the arrested development of most so called adults in the work force.  Most of the time you are telling them to get off their phone, telling one to stop teasing the other one or acting like a therapist.  My best guys are my old timers 50 and above, my 40 year olds are mostly worthless feel totally entitled and are extremely lazy (mastered the art of doing the absolute minimum) couple that with civil service union protection and your toast.  The exceptions are the ones that are former military or some other discipline type training.  30 year olds are for the most part ok.  20 year olds are surprisingly very creative and productive but haven't matured so they need to be treated like children.  I makes me want to take up farming, brewing beer or something that lets me have to deal with people as little as possible and just make something and sell it.

Oldwood's picture

Our reality is that there are fewer and fewer jobs that can use a mindless slacker as those are quickly being taken up by technology. The sense that one should have to work hard or even try is pervasive today and while it is kind of generational, it is infectious and is killing off the few remaining good ones. Middle management is stuck carrying the burden for failure from above and below and fewer are willing to take that position, happy to stay on lower tiers out of simple comfort. Technology offers such extreme margins compared to a degenerating workforce that profits can be split amongst fewer managers and upper tier employees. The bottom of the pay scale gets sadder and slower by the day, and those remaining are living on borrowed time. They made a choice at some point in their past that the effort to achieve just wasn't worth it and now find themselves so far removed from anything that would look or smell like an opportunity, that virtually none exist.

Even in the most fucked up environment there is always opportunity for those willing to do what it takes. We saw people escaping from slavery that actually were able to educate themselves and build a life, yet today we have people from privileged homes, college educated, who sit and bemoan their lack of opportunity. Yes it is hard! But there is no other choice! get off your ass and get it done!!!

Whitenoise's picture

I totally agree. I have approximately 55 people that report to me with 2 leads and 6 shift supervisors below them.  It is a full-time job just tyring to get people to get to work.  Wages are in the $15/hr range and this is for delivery work with FULL benefits.  I am flexible with problems employees have and try to help but few put in a day's work for a day's wage.  The best employees are older 50+ and anyone who made at least Sargeant or equal rank in the services.  They understand discipline and completing the mission.

Harbanger's picture

This Article is just standard class warfare drivel.  It's getting old.

new game's picture

assholes rewarded by higher up even greater assholes. never yet met a boss that wasn't an asshole, just the way it is...

mofreedom's picture

Funny, I never had an employee that lived up to their job description.

de3de8's picture

Someone has to look out over the headlights

froze25's picture

You have to be an asshole sometimes when you are the boss to handle the assholeness of the lazy asses you are in charge of.  The people that do their work you can be decent with.  If your not comfortable being an asshole some of the time when the situation calls for it, don't be a boss.  That doesn't mean be an asshole all the time there is an art form of the application of assholeness that has to be refined over time.

Oldwood's picture

Its hard to survive and NOT be an asshole to someone, otherwise they will tread on you like pavement. All that is required for success is for people to make commitments and live up to them, be they employer, employee or priest.

tarsubil's picture

Sounds like you're an excellent hiring manager.

mofreedom's picture

Don't get me wrong, they aren't shovel-leaning government types...

Agstacker's picture

As long as the company pretends to pay us, we pretend to work.

unplugged's picture

and I've never in 30 years had a manager who's tasks could not have been done by the employee's he/she managed - making their value-added a big fat ZERO

froze25's picture

Seriously you have to totally grill them in the interview process to make sure that their resume isn't total bull shit, 80% of the resumes I have reviewed are total bs.  You really have to be thorough in the interview.

Bananamerican's picture

I imagine thousands of boomer forearms clearing chips from the table as the sun rises on Armageddon

Pairadimes's picture

I was imagining the distinct sound of AR-15 safeties being snapped into the 'fire' position all across a fed-up middle America.

Dr. Engali's picture

Wage growth for workers is a thing of the past. There was a brief moment in history in this country when labor had the upper hand, but that moment is gone never to return. Globalization and automation will continue the downward pressure on wages until that time when there are no workers left and virtually everybody relies on a hand out from .gov. By that time we will become a nuisance to the elites and eliminated. 

froze25's picture

Thank both sides of the political Isle for encouraging illegal immigration to dilute the labor force.  As well as "free" trade with slave labor nations.

Oldwood's picture

Yes, but what is supposed to drive wage growth? It would seem it would be inflation, productivity or demand.

We see inflation in select areas but not too much in products and services Americans produce.

The only productivity increases we see are the result of technology that few Americans own themselves or even endeavor to learn with employers paying them to do so.

And demand??? Where are we seeing increasing demand for anything we produce?

We all want more money but how do we get it? Admittedly those with the most don't seem to have trouble printing up more, but for the rest of us we have to EARN IT...so how?

The old fashioned way of earning used to be working harder and smarter, but today, aside from the incredible drag imposed on us by government and their minions, few seem to think they should have to do anything additional to earn more money. Just show up. just live longer and gain seniority while we ALL KNOW we are only getting slower and dumber with age.

Reality sucks.

tarsubil's picture

"Wage growth" should come from increased purchasing power from good old fashioned and natural progress. How does a chef increase productivity or demand? The point is for him to cook food, not stamp out shit with a giant machine. The value of his service remains the same, generally based on his skills which may vary a little but most likely not much, while progress around him means more is available to him to purchase in exchange thus increasing his purchasing power not his numerical wage which is a bullshit desire.

Productivity gains today are just a way the powers that be increase their profit margin, it isn't for the average worker. It all comes back to the lie that "inflation" is needed to increase wages. Inflation only comes from central banks and they've used this lie probably since the beginning of money. All gains from progress, which should be shared naturally not by any law, are sucked up by the inflation from money printing and handed directly to those at the top. It essentially is another take on feudalism but possibly worse than that in the middle ages.

Oldwood's picture

Natural progress!!! Go wander out into the woods and see how natural progress works out for you.

Sounds like sociaist drivel to me. Everyone is supposed to magically share in "progress"? Who's progress? The guy who actually invents and creates something useful, or the person who simply finds enough motivation to drag themselves from their bed in the morning and magically find their way to work, relying on someone else to place a useful creation of innovation into his numb hands to do a service that will soon be displaced by a machine?

This mystical belief in natural progress completely evades me. How has this ever worked in history. Yes our living stadards have increased substantially in the last hundred years but it has been the result of innovators, and yes there has been a great deal of that progress that has rubbed off on civilization, but it can disappear in a moment. Extinction has been the most common result from natural progression.


tarsubil's picture

Go wander out into the woods, in nature, and see how that works out for me? The progress of nature provides all the essentials to living, the materials for shelter, nutrition, and leisure. It actually does work out pretty well.

Progress occurred during the middle ages. It has always occurred. That is why I called it natural. This rather obvious fact will not be compatible with the boomer (or your masters') delusion of self-sufficiency. That's your problem, not mine.

If extinction truly was the more common occurance (life tended to die instead of grow), then there would be no life. Your focus on scientifically defined extinction is because you are beholden to man's over simplified (but still the best we can do) organization of nature. So you make mankind a god but only the select few, of course including yourself, the innovators, are classified as such. Sounds a lot like the basic beliefs of our masters.

unplugged's picture

To compensate, this year I gave myself a 100% pay raise by pretending to do work half the time

Yen Cross's picture

   We clearly have too many Chiefs, and not enough Indians. </sarc>

Racer's picture

Nearly one boss for every 4 workers... hmmmm, sounds reasonable...!

froze25's picture

I would kill for that, I got 22 peole under me with 2 sub managers.

Oldwood's picture

In corporations every one is promted to some type of manager. Working for 40 years in and around corporate offices, mostly headquarters, I see few people doing much of anything...very, very quiet.

There is too much diversity in business to be very general at all. Those we rail against the most are a very small minority of actual businesses.

Bill of Rights's picture
Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe: Every TV news report on the economy in one


JustPrintMoreDuh's picture

Abandon ship!  Every rat for themself ... 

all-priced-in's picture

The truth is hard for many to accept - they would rather cry and say - it's not fair.


Try and hire a manager or front line supervisor.  


I am not talking about the CEO of a major public company - but just someone that can manage a part of your company.


Say a person to oversee a group of maintenance workers - a production line with 150 employees - or one branch of a small company.


You will go fucking crazy trying to find someone that is willing and able to do what it takes.


When you do locate and hire this qualified, competent, willing to put in the extra time to make sure things are being managed right person - you will want to hang on to them - and if you have to pay them extra then that is what you do.


If you need 25 people to stand around with their finger in their ass - then those are easy to find - so you will pay them less and give them smaller raises.


If you don't understand this - then they are one of these 25 people.




Prober's picture

I am SO GRATEFUL for many reasons that I retired 20 years ago at a very early age from the businesses that I built. One of those reasons is that trying to start and run an entrepreneurial business today is almost suicidal for many reasons, including horrendous interference from various levels of government and a workforce that has declined ENORMOUSLY in motivation, ambition, education, skills, virtue, and integrity.

What you wrote about supervisors/managers is SO SADLY TRUE. Unfortunately all the western proletariat democracies are sinking ships of corruption, incompetence, lost direction, hyper-socialism, collectivism, statism, monetary insanity, debt-oblivion, entitlement-addiction, drug addiction, obesity, etc, etc, etc.

Tragically, there is only one way to stop the race to ruin, but there are not enough enlightened men with enough brains and balls to take back control of the government from the parasites.

froze25's picture

You are totally right it will take GOOD MEN with BALLs to stop it.  Who gets bashed on the news,  TV or Movies these days MEN With BALLS.  Being a stright man that acts like one is almost illegal.  But let me tell you a little secrete women want a MAN with balls, always have and always will.  Sorry Feminazi's its true. 

froze25's picture

Totally true, that is what employees don't understand about being a buinsess owner / manager, its not 9 -5 its more like 6 - 6 +.  So yeah your boss may take a 2 hr lunch from time to time, but he is the one getting the calls at 2 am on his day off.  Or responding to email when he is sick or on "vacation".  I have offten fanitsised about just going into the mailroom and doing the mindless repeaditive day to day task so that when I go home for the day my day is acctually done.  Let someone else handle the bull shit.

I Write Code's picture

And these numbers look like they are NOT inflation-adjusted, so the reality is zero or more likely, less.

Trick Shroadé's picture
Trick Shroadé (not verified) Apr 3, 2015 11:24 AM

So it sucks to be a grunt? Yea, I already knew that.

I woke up's picture

I'm a manager of 23 people.  I've been with the same company for almost 20 years and worked my way up from starting as a QC inspector.  I like to think I'm fair with each person on the team but will say 90% of my time is dealing with 10% of the people.  Many people care about doing a good job, some do not and they have to be dealt with in various ways.  It takes a long time to get the workforce aligned with the companies goals, the ship needs to stay afloat.  If the numbers decline then some hard decisions need to be made and I don't take them lightly or enjoy doing it especially knowing families are impacted.  At the end of the day if the numbers aren't met I need to do something about it or I'll be out.  Our revenue numbers are not good this year and the only alternative is to look inward to shore it up.  Sometimes it involves people sometimes it's deferring expenses.  I can say though getting rid of people is further down because finding (good) people to fill job openings is difficult and requires alot of energy.  Just my 2 cents.

Creepy A. Cracker's picture

And the 10% that you are constantly having to deal with are the ones on here spewing hate toward anyone working smart/hard, making more money than them.  With their bad attitudes they'll make your life as a mid-level manager, trying to create a good work atmosphere, a living hell - while at the same time pulling good employees down, trying to convince them that everything sucks.  A living hell, the entitled, I deserve it, types.  Don't hire them, for the sake of others who like to work if nothing else.

Caveman93's picture

Do you do the actual hiring there? If so, are you one of the rare people left who might actually read the resumes? Just curious.

I woke up's picture

I do, to be honest I usually look for referrals from good sources before reaching out online or thru ads.  I'm getting better at filtering in interviews but some do sneak thru and I have no one to blame but myself for not asking the right questions. 

Some of the people that work for me have had 1 or 2 other managers that came along before me.  My tact with them is pretty simple if you don't like working here then go somewhere else, no one is holding you hostage.  I don't need a virus in the workforce.  Again, many of the people are really good and care, several want this company to be the last one they work for so they have a vested interest in making it successful. 

rejected's picture

Read his post three times.He's an American supervisor / boss alright. Finding the right people,,, code for suck ups.

It takes a long time to get the workforce aligned with the companies goals, the ship needs to stay afloat,,,  same

If the numbers decline then some hard decisions need to be made and I don't take them lightly or enjoy doing it especially knowing families are impacted,,, code for could care less


I work for a Very large corporation, heard it all (as most who actually produce have). The lazy butts sit around soaking up ridiculous salaries and  bonuses while blaming everything that goes wrong on the lowly worker bee. So far they have layed off 75% of the workforce. The quality is now in the crapper, everything is done for the numbers (metrics) which management changes almost daily to ensure their next payoff.

I woke up's picture

You might want to get a new decoder ring

rejected's picture

Naaaa,,,, The old one works fine,,, And the last thing todays modern American manager wants is a thinker,,, which is why more businesses are failing than being started... and why everyone including you and I will be in a soup line soon.

I woke up's picture

I look for the thinkers so if you're looking for a job let me know

Oldwood's picture

I have had plenty of "thinker" employees, and still do. They think so much that they will not follow instruction. The "think" their job is to do mine, rather than theirs. It is an unfortunate fact that a business is an organization and like in the military, function ceases when it becomes every man for himself.

What is odd is that there are so many who adore the collective, yet absolutely refuse to work as a team for a goal. It would seem that if there is an common theme amongst these "thinkers" it is that the goal is not productivity, not profitability, but the actual prevention of those goals. explicitly to do all that they can to make sure the boss DOESN'T make any money. Or at the very least, prove they are right and everyone else is wrong, no matter what it costs.

froze25's picture

Blaming the worker bee after the fact is a sign of poor management.  If management does not take the steps to discipline the worker bee or hold them accountable for not doing the job in a professional competent-manner than the blame is on management.  I deal with my 10% by being up their you know what till I can fire them.  Not an easy task in a civil service union environment but time and constant logging of their fuckups is on my side.  You can get rid of anyone if you are determined.  To your credit I do see that from other department heads, especially in the public safety area, when someone points out that they are engaging in illegal revenue generation through "code" enforcement like magic they are fired.

TheGreatRecovery's picture

Because your boss is a salesman.  You HAVE to be a salesman to survive.

Oldwood's picture

I've been in business for thirty years. I am not a salesman, never have been, and have never hired a salesman. Our work speaks for itself...and yes it takes years to do that. Salesmen only allow you to sell a lesser product at a higher price. There are other ways, but it is harder. You can actually produce value that others seek out.

Or you can just run an add.