Thanks to my readers Movie Guy, Joe Rotger, and Spencer (as well as Dave Altig in personal email communication) for helping to clarify a misunderstanding I may have helped promote with my post earlier this week on wages and total compensation.
The two BLS series I plotted there, average hourly earnings and total compensation, are not strictly comparable, because they apply in part to different groups of people. Average hourly earnings only refers to production workers, construction workers, and nonsupervisory workers, whereas the BLS compensation series includes all wage and salary workers as well as a compensation imputation to proprietors. Thus the divergent trends between falling wages and rising compensation in part reflects the phenomenon I referred to (an increased share of compensation going to nonwage income), and in part reflects the growing wage gap between nonsupervisory workers on the one hand and supervisors or proprietors on the other.
The answer to the question I posed– should we worry about the declining trend in real wages– should I think be a stronger “yes” than I originally suggested.