Average and Median Wages through Time

Reader JohnH criticizes the use of average wages as indicators of the representative compensation, and suggests use of Social Security Administration data. Here are several measures taken from SSA, deflated by the CPI.

Figure 1: Average Wage Index (AWI) (blue), average net compensation (brown), and median net compensation (green), all in 1982-84$, per year; deflated using CPI all. 2020 AWI estimated by CBO. LIght green shading denotes Obama administration. Source: Social Security Administration [1] , [2] CBO, BLS, and authors calculations.

How do these series, in particular, compare with the conventional average hourly earnings for total private industry ex.-nonproduction and supervisory employees (FRED series AHETPI)?

Figure 2: Average hourly earnings for total private industry excluding nonproduction and supervisory employees, in 1982-84$/hour (black, left log scale), and median net compensation (green, right log scale), in 1982-84$, per year; deflated using CPI all. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. LIght green lines denote beginning and ending of Obama administration. Source: Social Security Administration [1] , BLS, and authors calculations.

The correlation between the two series (in log terms) is 0.90.

Comparing 2017M01 vs. 2009M01, real average wage (AHETPI) is 3.2% higher, and median wage is 5.1%.

I wish people would look at data.





83 thoughts on “Average and Median Wages through Time

  1. pgl

    “I wish people would look at data.”

    JohnH does look at whatever data fits his current spin. Of course his intent has never been to offer an honest and intelligent analysis. His latest may have been making it up as he goes – but trust me his political masters want him to do that.

  2. ltr


    January 15, 2018

    Real Median Weekly Earnings, * 1980-2021

    * All full time wage and salary workers

    (Indexed to 1980)


    January 15, 2018

    Real Median Weekly Earnings and Nonfarm Business Productivity, * 1980-2021

    * All full time wage and salary workers & output per hour

    (Indexed to 1980)


    January 15, 2018

    Real Median Weekly Earnings for men and women, * 1980-2021

    * All full time wage and salary workers

    (Indexed to 1980)

  3. ltr


    August 15, 2021

    Biden Administration Prompts Largest Permanent Increase in Food Stamps
    The jump in benefits, the biggest in the program’s history, comes after a revision of the initiative’s nutrition standards that supporters say will reduce hunger and better reflect how Americans eat.
    By Jason DeParle

    WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has revised the nutrition standards of the food stamp program and prompted the largest permanent increase to benefits in the program’s history, a move that will give poor people more power to fill their grocery carts but add billions of dollars to the cost of a program that feeds one in eight Americans.

    Under rules to be announced on Monday and put in place in October, average benefits will rise more than 25 percent from prepandemic levels. All 42 million people in the program will receive additional aid. The move does not require congressional approval, and unlike the large pandemic-era expansions, which are starting to expire, the changes are intended to last….

    1. ltr


      August 10, 2021

      The hard case for soft investment
      By Paul Krugman

      Assessing the payoff to infrastructure spending is surprisingly hard, because we don’t get to observe the counterfactuals….

      When it comes to investment in people, by contrast, we often do get to observe the counterfactuals.

      The food stamp program, for example, was rolled out gradually across America, not introduced immediately on a nationwide basis. So was Medicaid, which was also enhanced in a series of discrete steps in the decades after its creation.

      These gradual rollouts provide us with natural experiments. Economists can compare the life trajectories of Americans who received food stamps or Medicaid in their early years with those of otherwise similar Americans who didn’t, or the experiences of those who benefited from Medicaid enhancements with the experiences of slightly older Americans who didn’t.

      And what these comparisons show are big positive effects of social spending. Children who had access to food stamps grew up into healthier, more productive adults than those who didn’t — so much so that the government eventually recouped much, possibly all, of what it spent upfront in higher revenue and lower spending on things like disability payments….


      January 30, 2018

      Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as a share of Disposable Personal Income, 1992-2020

    1. pgl

      “The fact that prices are moving higher faster than wages”

      For the past 12 months but note how real wages spiked in early 2020. Look I get your need to defend JohnH and Kelly Anne Conway but did you not understand the last two posts? Lay off the wine troll.

      1. Moses Herzog

        You’ve been allowed your comments about JohnH many of them personal with very little reason to make them personal, with very little “push back” by me. If you stopped to think about that a little bit, instead of trying to score points like a 2nd grader, it might dawn on you the reason.

        1. pgl

          Try reading others noting how JohnH is embarrassing himself with his continuous intellectual garbage. By comparison I am being kind.

          If you have not figured out what folks like macroduck has figured out by now – then you really are DUMB.

          1. Moses Herzog

            Even when people largely concede your point you can’t let it rest can you?? And by your score I’m the “troll” correct??

      2. Moses Herzog

        @ pgl
        BTW, I doubt if Jason Furman’s comments were a direct reference to JohnH’s arguments. My take of it was/is Furman’s comments were more of a general nature. But maybe in your narcissistic world, everyone/anyone who says something on the topics of economics or politics must somehow be replying directly to you. I don’t know how that works for you. I don’t recollect ever being self-obsessed, as you are, so I have no reference point on that.

        1. pgl

          It would have be nice if you linked to what Jason Furman said. But nooo – you have become like Econned in sheer laziness. Not going to respond to a comment like this as it is pointless even by your worthless standards.

          1. Moses Herzog

            It was/is linked. I mean, If Menzie will allow me to say it, you’re a [edited MDC} literal retard when it comes to reading comprehension. There’s no other word to describe your reading skills but ret**d.

            And I’m sure Menzie and Jason Furman hang their head in shame very time they use Twitter. OR they might choose to use it, over say, Facebook, because they realize they’ll be behind the curve professionally if they ignore Twitter, Which part of this do your Georgia genes that mated with your Georgia cousins not understand this??

          2. pgl

            “Even when people largely concede your point you can’t let it rest can you?”

            As opposed to Uncle Moses who repeats his pointless lies over and over again. Or maybe this drunk does not realize his lying BFF repeats his stupidity over and over again.

            BTW – Econned sounds like he needs a date. Dude – Moses is more your style. Have fun you two!

          3. EConned

            PaGLiacci is yet again trying to avoid providing support of its lies/claims. Maybe just waiting to finish up reading a copy of “100 Days Towards Statistical Literacy”. Don’t let that clown nose get in the way. HonkHonkHonk

        2. pgl

          Oh a twitter barrage. Fine Jason has certain tweets. Let me know when he writes a paper on this – assuming you and your BFF even know what Furman was saying.

        3. pgl

          “I don’t recollect ever being self-obsessed, as you are, so I have no reference point on that.”

          You are the most self obsesses person here with the exception of JohnH’s obsession with what Paul Krugman did or did not write.

          Hey – if you want to defend an uber troll, be my guest. After all – your dishonesty is on par with his.

  4. Moses Herzog

    If Susan Rice had been named Head of National Security, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense….. would Afghanistan be falling to terrorists right now who are going to now make their main bullseye “Major City X” USA??? I guess if you refuse to listen to someone, and don’t let them enter into the room of discussion you don’t have to hear what they say. Great job of ceding land and sophisticated US military weapons over to terrorists Biden foreign policy team. I hope Republicans take a club to Biden on this one, because he deserves it.

    1. Moses Herzog

      Maybe Biden can make Neera Tanden Head of National Security now. She is a lawyer after all…….. you know, in case there’s any regulatory or litigation issues. And the ability to punch brown skin people for asking the wrong questions could come in handy. Step one in Neera’s new litigation free war regime: Twitter twat hit and run snark strikes on Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. “Don’t ask that question, I punch you creepy uncle with long beard!!!!”

      It’s on!!!!!

        1. Moses Herzog

          I was hoping for a bigger swipe than that Menzie, Come on, I know you want to “let it out” : )

          This actually really isn’t a stab at you, it’s just, the woman kind of aggravates me, what can I say. You know she’s an advisor to Biden now right?? Although in fairness I doubt she had a part in the Afghanistan ClusterF___

          I’m still happy Susan Rice got some job in the White House, but Menzie, come on, You may not even be close to a Susan Rice fan, but you know how much of a waste of talent that is putting her on domestic things?? It’s like if Biden put you and Stanley Fischer on staff to handle Veterans Affairs. It’s just damned dumb as Hell Menzie, that’s all there is to it. Maybe Biden can put Jeffrey Frankel on as Head of Homeland Security while he’s at it. How do you take someone’s intuitive skill base and let it collect dust Menzie??

        2. pgl

          A catastrophe no doubt but even Susan Rice (who I also think the world of) could outdo the disaster created by the incompetence of Trump and former Sec. of State Jabba the Hut (Pompeo)/

          1. Moses Herzog

            You can say “donald trump would have eventually made the same decision”. That’s possible. But to say the summer moves of 2021 were trump’s fault—you’re probably one of three idiots on planet Earth who actually believes that and the other two are your special ed jogging buddies.

            This is Biden’s move and Biden’s fault. I think even Menzie would tell you that, and if Menzie said otherwise, I’d lose a great deal of respect for him, because no one with two eyes and the ability to read could come to any other conclusion.

            BTW, ALL Presidents “inherit” problems—it’s not an excuse for horrendously bad decisions—sorry to inform Chair of the Andrew Cuomo fan club.

          2. pgl

            Moses Herzog
            August 16, 2021 at 8:36 am

            This dishonesty of yours is getting old. I was not defending Biden and even someone drunk on too much wine would get this. But if you are agreeing with Pompeo’s BS, then your brain has truly rotted.

          3. Moses Herzog

            “the disaster created by the incompetence of Trump and former Sec. of State Jabba the Hut (Pompeo)/”

            You’re getting as bad as Barkley Junior, making statements that can be verified as LIES only by scrolling up two inches in the same exact comment thread.

          4. pgl

            Moses Herzog
            August 16, 2021 at 4:29 pm

            Gee – old Uncle Moses now thinks Pompeo and Trump did a great job with Afghanistan. Seriously? If that was not a horrible situation that they left then we won the Vietnam War. I bet old Uncle Moses thought Nixon was great too.

    2. paddy kivlin

      “falling to terrorists right now who are going to now make their main bullseye “Major City X” USA???”

      you ghosyting for wm kristol?

      remains to be seen if the taliban want to or can mount anything like 9/11, they had almost nothing to do wioth the first one.

      susan rice…. may be she will tell chm of the woke chiefs milley what pumps the infantry need!

      1. pgl

        Susan Rice is not nearly as bad as Billy Boy Chickhawk Kristol. But her position does resemble what John Bolton said last year and what Liz Cheney is saying now. There was both a bipartisan push to stay a lot longer as well as a bipartisan push to get the hell out.

        Of course expect former Sec. of State Jabba the Hut to deny his and Trump’s role in cut and run.

      2. Moses Herzog

        BTW, I’ve seen Susan Rice in TV interviews, professionally containing herself, about 1/2 step away from weeping discussing the near genocide and death of people in Syria, when she was the only one in the room who wanted to enforce “the red line” President Obama wimped out on. Someone who nearly cries in public about the deaths of people she has no personal connection to, or nearly sheds tears in public over people she has no cultural affinity with, hardly qualifies as a “warmonger” to me. And the thought of John Bolton crying over anyone other than his own offspring about brings me into hysterical laughter.

        1. Barkley Rosser


          I serously doubt that anything would have been any different if Susan Rice were in a foreign policy decision. For better or worse this was Biden, long a dove on Afghanistan. He was the dove in the Obama admin, opposing Obama’s troop increase and even opposing the takeout of bin Laden. He was getting advice not to pull the troops out from SecDef Austin and reportedly from all of the inel community, not sure what Sullivan or Blinken were saying behind closed doors. But he was definitely going to do it, although nobody foresaw how suddenly the old Afghan regime would collapse.

          I note that Trump set this up, negotiating with the Taliban behind the back of the Afghan government in Doha, and cutting a deal in Feb. 2020 to withdraw. Gettnig the Pakistani government to release 5000 Afghan prisoners who reinforced the Taliban, including their new leader. As recently as a month ago at one of his superspreader rallies he was bragging how Biden was following his policies on this and how he supported him doing so.

          A further point is that the 2500 military Trump left him with there was not sustainable. The Taliban was steadily, if gradually, gaining in the countryside. If Biden were to stop that and keep the old Afghan government in power, he would have needed to put more US troops in. It was either really reverse the Trump policy and put more troops in, something he opposed as VP under Obama, or do what he did, which now is working out very badly.

          1. pgl

            Trump would have had us out by May 1. Now what did Trump do to facilitate getting our allies out? Not a damn thing. And would he have sent troops back in to at least try to get allies out? No effing way.

            Look this is turning badly but when Pompeo claims a President Trump would have done better is beyond stupid and dishonest. But for some reason uncle Moses is grasping at straws that are not there.

          2. Barkley Rosser

            Looking at what Biden has said about his thinking on this matter, it looks that a major influence on him is his experience as the father of the late Beau Biden, who fought in Iraq, the invasion of which Biden voted for, with Biden blaming his son’s getting cancer from being exposed to some sort of burning pits there. That may not be right, but he emphasized the argument, long supported by US political opinion coming from both parties, that for all the bad stuff especially to women that will probably happen in Afghanistan under a Taliban government, it was ultimately not worth another American soldier’s life and was ultimately the responsibility of the Afghans themselves. This chaotic ending looks very bad, and almost certainly GOP opinion in particular will now be super negative on him about this, but in the somewhat longer run public opinion may side with him.

            I note that the exit from Vietnam was also unpleasant and embarrassing with lots of people suffering afterwards, but also in the end did not seem to affect US politics all that much. People here are much more concerned with domestic stuff like the pandemic and the economy. This might not hold if it comes to pass that al Qaeda gets itself established there again and actually carries out terror attacks against the US.

            I also note that the US should have gotten out in 2002, soon after the Taliban were initially overthrown. Of course policymaking in Afghanistan became an afterthought under W. Bush as he and his admin turned their focus so foolishly on to invading Iraq.

          3. Moses Herzog

            @ Barkley Rosser
            As much as it pains me to admit it, you are probably correct she couldn’t have changed the result. But this is also why she wasn’t invited into the discussion, and/or given the job she should have had, to begin with. And if you think this is the last time I’m bringing up the fact the world would be a better place if Susan Rice could find a sitting U.S. President that ever listened to what she had to say, get ready to be tired of me typing her name.

            And also get ready for me to dump on Blinken more in the future. This man is so dumb and clueless you can start the stopwatch on that right now.

          4. Dr. Dysmalist

            I’m willing to give a little blame to Biden for the fact that so many of our allies are still there, though both the Pentagon and part of the State Dept, as well as the Afghans themselves, have been dragging their feet. He is the CIC, give them an order they can’t refuse.

            Make no mistake though, the vast majority of the blame lies on the Pentagon brass. They’re the ones who have insisted, again & again, for YEARS, that if only they had a few (thousand) more soldiers and another (1? 2? 3? n?) Friedman Units the situation would be completely copacetic. They’re the ones who have insisted, again & again, for at least months, that the Afghan Army would hold out for 6 months, not fold like a cheap card table. And I don’t blame them, either. The Pentagon brass either knew or should have known that they weren’t being paid, or in some cases, even fed. The brass had to have known about, and turned a blind eye to, the rampant corruption.

            They bullied both Obama and Trump into giving them more X (see above) and not cutting our losses. It was in plain sight for all of us to see.

            I’m sick of hearing the same Bilge Sediment from the Pentagon, so I can only imagine how ticked off Biden must be. He’s wanted to rip off this bandaid at least since the SEALs killed OBL. IIRC, it’s been even longer than that, and 8 years or more later it’s thesame damn bandaid.

            Since I got off work today, I’ve been fully aware that the Pentagon is deploying its massive and extensive PR machinery, both official (current brassholes) and unofficial (retired brassholes and pet Congress critters), in a truly monumental exercise in CYA to assure us all that, no way, it’s not their fault, nosiree, nuh-uh. Don’t let them distract you. If they had been anything close to this diligent at doing their actual jobs in Afghanistan, we wouldn’t be in this situation.

            Honestly, I can’t blame Biden if he ran out of patience, and it’s long past time to expose this suppurating wound and let it start healing. Good on him for calling the Pentagon’s bluff.

            And I will give zero credence to any and all criticism from wingnuts. They’re part & parcel of getting us into this and keeping us there. Unless & until they’re willing to admit their complicity, they can all die in a fire, silently.

            I know this comes across as defending Biden, which I didn’t and don’t intend to, but I honestly can’t see that he’s any more than about the fifth most culpable party in this. He’s a lot closer to being a whistleblower than a villain. We can start blaming him after every single one of the colossal eff-ups over the last 20 years steps forward and accepts blame.

          5. Moses Herzog

            @ Barkley Rosser
            Did I just say you were correct about something?? I’m only halfway through this can of Modelo, and based on the evidence, it appears I’m already sauced.

            You’re right about Susan Rice, in essence I think you are saying “If Susan Rice was in the inner circle, Sec of State, Sec of Defense, National Security Chief (Sullivan’s job), Biden still would have done what he did”. Yes 80%+ probably true. Bu t it still doesn’t excuse it’s a very bad mistake, And whatever happened to his son doesn’t excuse it’s a bad mistake either. This is done on a calculus “It’s better if Afghanis die for their own country than one more American dies to save lives and avoid Afghanistan become a haven to train terrorists” I don’t buy that calculus.

            Part of Biden’s argument is “Well if the Afghan army doesn’t want to protect Afghanistan why should we??” What is the Afghan army?? It’s mostly weekend warriors. How do you think putting the U.S. National Guard with standard weapons against war hardened Taliban militants would go?? I don’t think U.S. citizens want to know the answer to that question. The National Guard is our equivalent to the Afghani government army. We’d be giving up cities left and right the same as they are if it was strictly a National Guard force. This is a bad decision, and if need be, there was no reason not to increase the soldier count to avoid the Taliban controlling an entire country.

            Hell, of they were going to do THIS, why not just hand Afghanistan over to ISIS and ISIL?? Who’s going to tell me the difference here??

          6. Barkley Rosser


            I think we do not fully know what the heck has gone on here, but I heard an absolutely stunning report from Richard Engel out of Kabul on the Rachel Maddow show earlier this evening, which if correct really throws this whole thing much more squarely onto the moral lap of Donald Trump than I am sure any of his supporters will be willing to accept. And the only alternative would indeed have been for Biden to undo Trump’s agreement with the Taliban and sharply increase the number of US troops there for essentially an indefinite time into the future, which he clearly was not going to do, driven by the memory of his late son.

            So the new information that Engel reports is that what lay behind this sudden collapse of the old Afghan military and government was a series of deals that the Taliban had been gradually making over a long time with various groups of government and military. They started with the lowest and smallest levels in rural areas near what they already controlled, and then gradually over time built up to larger units of both, finally getting to provincial capitals and culminating in a deal with Ghazni and the top military commanders in Kabul, which involved Ghazni just picking up and leaving and the Taliban being able on Sunday to simply walk into Kabul without a single shot being fired, the Afghan military simply just putting down the guns and leaving.

            But the critical piece of new information that Engel reports is that the starting point for this set of deal making at the lowest level dates back to the immediate aftermath of the deal that Trump made with them in Doha in Feb. 2020 without the Afghan government being a participant at all. It became clear to basically all levels of government and military in Afghanistan after that deal was cut that the US was going to abandon them, so the best thing they could do when they were approached by the Taliban with these surrender deals was to take them. This process of setting up this massive and basically sudden collapse was set up starting with Trump’s deal. It would have been very hard for Biden to have undone and overcome all that. The GOPs are madly running to get his fingerprints off this, but this sudden collapse leaving so many of our allies and even some of our citizens apparently stuck there is overwhelmingly due to the deal Trump cut.

          7. pgl

            “A further point is that the 2500 military Trump left him with there was not sustainable.”

            I keep hearing from the neocons how 2500 American soldiers can put down this latest Taliban offensive. When we had 15,000 troops here the Taliban made substantial progress. But a mere 2500 would be sufficient? What a load of rubbish. These neocons spend their days in action movies but not a one of them have ever been on the battle field.

  5. JohnH

    Where exactly does the BLS report median earnings in current dollars? SSA does this in a clear, straightforward format, albeit with a significant delay.

    And if the BLS does not, why not? Isn’t the average American entitled to know how much the average Worker takes home on an hourly, weekly and annual basis? Aren’t people entitled to know from BLS that the average worker is barely making a living wage and can barely afford housing? It might help politicians focus.

    Just reporting average earnings, which are 50% higher than the median , simply serves to obfuscate how the workforce is doing.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      JohnH: “Albeit with significant delay”? It’s past halfway through 2021, and we don’t have an official SSA number for average, average net compensation, median net compensation for 2020!

      1. JohnH

        Scylla and Charybda. SSA doesn’t have any data since 2019. And BLS has no current data on median compensation at all, except in 1980 dollars or in indices.

        I guess the American voter is just not supposed to know how the average American worker is doing in terms of wages at any given point in time. Personally, I’m glad that SSA has actually made data available that is easily comprehensible, even though it’s somewhat dated. It’s better than nothing.

        Apparently only educated elites with sophisticated methods of calculating the data are supposed to know.

        What’s wrong with that picture? What is the government hiding? And why?

          1. pgl

            But that is only quarterly. JohnH thinks that if this is not repeated weekly, it is proof that government reporting agencies are corrupt. Of course this series go back longer than a year so using it notes the big increase at the beginning of 2020 – which is more proof that the reporting agency has sold out.

        1. pgl

          ‘only educated elites with sophisticated methods of calculating the data are supposed to know.’

          It does not require an advanced degree in mathematics to be able to take a well reported series on earnings and divide it by the consumer price index. Now if this is above your pre-K arithmetic skills, there are plenty of 7 year old kids who can do this in Excel for you.

          1. Dr. Dysmalist

            “It does not require an advanced degree in mathematics to be able to take a well reported series on earnings and divide it by the consumer price index.”

            So my graduate degrees, with many courses in econ & econometrics, aren’t needed?! NOW you tell me?! Dang it!!!

          2. pgl

            Dr. Dysmalist
            August 16, 2021 at 2:27 pm

            That was funny. Your advanced degree has you doing a lot more than simple Excel functions. Not to repeat myself but JohnH needs to take his shoes off to count past 10.

  6. JohnH

    Again, looking at the data, SSA data shows that median compensation was $26,514 in 2008, the last year before Obama took office. It was $30,533 in 2016, Obama’s last year. According to the BLS inflation calculator (December, 2008 to December 2016), cumulative inflation was 14.8%. Real median compensation growth 15.8%. Dividing compensation growth by inflation results in Cumulative real median compensation growth of 0.31%.

    Part of the reason median compensation growth was so low by 2016 is that the the median dropped from 66.9% of average compensation in 2008 to 65.5% in 2016, a drop of 2.1%.

    All of the data except for inflation is available on a single page without the need to resort to extrapolations from various tables. The other advantage of the SSA data is that it comes from a database of wage earnings reported by same corporate databases that record workers’ wages. It is not survey data. It is highly reliable.

    And it’s patently obvious how poorly the average American worker fared during that period.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      JohnH: For the love of …. you do know you are dividing an annual figure by a monthly figure, and if you were to plot the time series, you would have this “jigsaw” pattern. Now, if I took the log of the ratio of 2016 CPI deflated median net compensation to the value in 2009, I would have …0.039, or 3.9%. Think about that, please.

      1. pgl

        Think? Do sensible analysis? Come on Menzie – doing this will have Kelly Anne Conway firing JohnH!

      2. pgl

        Lawrence Kudlow’s the deficit dance (which I hammered over at Econospeak) confuse quarterly flows with annual flows. JohnH is confusing monthly figures with annual figures which makes him Kudlow-squared!

      3. JohnH

        I don’t see any graph that shows median hourly, weekly, or annual wages or earnings expressed in current dollars.

        The advantage of the Social Security data is than it shows how much the median compensation was for American workers in 2019. It is easy to calculate that the average worker made about $17/hour in 2019, barely above a living wage. IOW almost half of workers made less than a living wage.

        Most of the FRED data contains indices and data expressed in 1982 dollars, which is nice to show changes but not absolute values.

      4. JohnH

        The problem is with using the 2009 figure. Bush’s last year was 2008, so the time period begins at the end of his term, which unfortunately contains 5% of the year after their last full year. They should not compare Obama’s last year to his first year. Likewise, Trump’s first year should not be credited to Obama. The question is: How did wages perform during Obama’s term as compared to when his predecessor left office ?

        Stock financial reports compare end of the prior year to end of the current year, not end of January to year end. In fact, I believe annual wages are calculated at the end of the year.

        As for the CPI, the BLS CPI Inflation calculator forces the user to select a month and a year. Granted, since wages are received throughout the year and the CPI is calculated every month, it would be preferable if the BLS had an average CPI calculator for each year. But I did not see it. Absent that, I believe it would be usual and customary to calculate a year’s CPI at the end of the year. If an annual average CPI inflation table exists, I’d be happy to see it.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          JohnH: Your assumption regarding what would be appropriate is wrong.

          There is such a thing as a “Spreadsheet”. I first encountered one in 1984.

          1. pgl

            Expecting him to use Excel may be a stretch when it seems he has to take his shoes off to count past 10.

        2. pgl

          Dude – you have gone bonkers. Maybe you have not noticed this but FRED allows one to report CPI monthly, quarterly, or yearly. And it is very easy to create Excel sheets from FRED. Of course that you be asking too much from you since you take your shoes off to count past 10.

        3. Dr. Dysmalist


          Do you make it a regular habit to tell surgeons that they’re doing a procedure incorrectly or using the wrong instruments? Do you tell architects they’ve designed a building wrong and they’ve specified the wrong HVAC equipment for it? Do you tell NASA’s scientists that they screwed up in calculating the flight path for an interplanetary mission based on “one weird trick” you read about on the web?

          You’re a rank amateur arguing with a bona fide expert, and the only “tool” you’ve brought with you is hubris. Just one time, try shutting up so you can learning something. The former is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition for the latter.

          If you were half as smart as you think you are, you would have learned the First Rule of Holes decades ago. I’m almost but not really interested in your lame-a$$ rationalization for not doing so.

  7. Moses Herzog

    Can anyone tell me, is the Secretary of State’s name Antony Blinken or is it Antony Deerintheheadlights?? Well, Susan Rice is helping with Domestic Policy now. That sure worked out well, didn’t it?? Maybe Blinken can let Iran do a full scale (“let’s quit the joke with the proxy stuff”) war on Iraq and while Blinken is overseeing the next Biden ClusterF___ they can have Susan Rice pass out Halloween candy at the White House. Sound like an intelligent use of human capital or just an adventure for the senile crew at the DC nursing home?? What happened when they made this decision??~~~did Copmala put psychedelic drugs in her hairspray and he made this Afghanistan decision immediately after putting his nose in her hair??

  8. ltr


    August 16, 2021

    Over 1.86 bln doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in China

    BEIJING — Over 1.86 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in China by Sunday, the National Health Commission said Monday.

    [ Chinese coronavirus vaccine yearly production capacity is more than 5 billion doses. Along with over 1.862 billion doses of Chinese vaccines administered domestically, another 800 million doses have been distributed internationally. A number of countries are now producing Chinese vaccines from delivered raw materials. ]

    1. ltr


      August 16, 2021

      Chinese mainland reports 51 new COVID-19 cases

      The Chinese mainland recorded 51 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, with 13 being local transmissions and 38 from overseas, the latest data from the National Health Commission showed on Monday.

      In addition, 20 new asymptomatic cases were recorded, while 495 asymptomatic patients remain under medical observation.

      This brings the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland to 94,430, with the death toll unchanged at 4,636.

      Chinese mainland new locally transmitted cases


      Chinese mainland new imported cases


      Chinese mainland new asymptomatic cases


  9. Left Coast Bernard

    Prof. Chinn,
    Among the good features of your blog is the way you work with public data right before our eyes as you do in this post.
    For your amateur economist readers, could you do a post in which you show us how you correct your time series for inflation.
    The data for this and the methods appear to be readily available to you, yet the results appear as if by magic.
    You use different base years,. You apply the correction to nominal values and to indices and other time series. There appear to be different sources for these corrections.
    You and Prof. Hamilton have done informative posts along these lines, such as explaining why you use semi-log plots or the meaning of chained indices.
    Thank you.

    1. macroduck

      Left Coast,

      You’ll notice Menzie and some of the commenters here make extensive use of the Federal Reserve Economic Database. Some of the adjustments to data you mention can be done through menus at that database. Indexing a data series and converting monthly to quarterly data are both easy to do. Inflation adjustment can be done through a menu, but I find it easier to download data to a spreadsheet.

      Finding data is a little trickier if you are new to the wide range of economic data — there is so much to choose from. However, if you know roughly what you want, type the name and “fred” into a search engine and you’ll have be offered choices. You can do the same aa the FRED site, but id you aren’t already at fred, using a browser search will both help identify data series and take you to FRED. Two birds with one search.

      It may sound harder than it is. Try it. FRED is a playground.

  10. ltr


    August 16, 2021

    Life at the Bottom in Joe Biden’s America
    By Dean Baker

    With the economy facing substantial bottlenecks, and the continuing spread of the pandemic, it is worth taking a quick look at how lower paid workers have been faring. Nominal wages have been rising rapidly for workers at the bottom of the pay ladder in recent months. This has allowed workers in the lowest paying jobs to see substantial increases in real wages, in spite of the uptick in inflation the last few months.

    Here’s the picture in retail for production and non-supervisory workers. Note that real wages were actually somewhat lower in 2018 than they had been in 2002. (These numbers are 1982-1984 dollars, so multiply by about 2.6 to get current dollars.) They did rise in 2018 and 2019, due to a tightening of the labor market, as well as minimum wage hikes at the state and local  level. The impact of the pandemic and the recovery has been a big net positive. Real wages in the sector are roughly 4.6 percent higher than the level of two years ago, a 2.3 percent annual real wage gain.

    [ Average Hourly Earnings for Production and non-Supervisory Workers in Retail ]

    The story looks even better in the hotel and restaurant sector. Real wages had been rising fairly consistently since 2014, but growth has picked up in the pandemic and recovery. Real wages are now 6.3 percent above their level of two years ago, an average annual increase of 3.2 percent. This rate of increase is not likely to continue, but so far workers in this sector have been seeing extraordinary wage gains.

    [ Average Hourly Earnings for Production and non-Supervisory Workers in Leisure and Hospitality ]

    1. pgl

      “With the economy facing substantial bottlenecks, and the continuing spread of the pandemic, it is worth taking a quick look at how lower paid workers have been faring. Nominal wages have been rising rapidly for workers at the bottom of the pay ladder in recent months. This has allowed workers in the lowest paying jobs to see substantial increases in real wages, in spite of the uptick in inflation the last few months.”

      JohnH often cites Dean Baker is as a capable economist who cares about income equality issues. Baker deserves any and all praise. Notice how he has just undermines the latest serial nonsense from JohnH?!

      Wait for it – more incoherent babbling from JohnH!

  11. ltr

    The Chinese have a policy of prevention of domestic coronavirus cases. A question that is repeatedly asked is the extent to which a coronavirus prevention policy will limit growth? While there is no answer as yet, flexibility in planning with extensive infrastructure gives the impression that little growth is now being sacrificed:


    August 15, 2021

    China aims to balance COVID-19 control, economic growth

    — The recent resurgence of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant has caused an increasing number of infections in several Chinese cities.
    — Chinese authorities have quickly clamped down on local flare-ups with measures like mass nucleic acid testing, targeted lockdowns, and travel restrictions, which has led to a distinct downward trend in new infections.
    — Analysts say that the overall impact of this round of Delta outbreaks on China’s economy may be more limited because China is now experienced in containing the spread of the virus and can better coordinate control measures and economic development.

    By He Leijing and Xu Ruiqing

    1. macroduck

      Goldman Sachs disagrees and has no reason to lie:

      “We revise down our Q3 real GDP forecast by 3.5pp to 2.3% QoQ vs. 5.8% previously.”

      Menzie already covered yis. It is dishonest to ignore what has already been written on this blog while parroting Chinese propaganda.

  12. pgl

    The British Virgin Islands is notorious for allowing multinationals to park their profits there and face zero taxes. Biden and leaders of other G20 nations have decided to use a global minimum tax to combat this global tax evasion. So what do the leaders of the British Virgin Island say about this?

    Shorter version of the blah, blah, blah – the BVI tells the rest of us fu#$ off.

  13. David O'Rear


    RE: BVI response to G20 minimum tax, what would you think might be the response if, say Sweden, were to instruct the USA on the minimum tax that must be imposed on business in the USA?

    Feel free to substitute any sovereign governing jurisdiction you wish into either side of the equation.

    1. pgl

      There is a big difference between Sweden – which actually has factories, workers, R&D types, etc. v. BVI which houses nothing more than tax lawyers.

      1. David O'Rear

        Sweden, being a member of the OECD (and therefore having a voice in the debate) was a poor choice. Let’s say Singapore instead.

        Are you suggesting that a jurisdiction with “factories, workers, R&D types, etc.” has a greater right to fiscal sovereignty than a place that would be wholly unsuited to such an economy?

        Is fiscal sovereignty only for those with “factories, workers, R&D types, etc.” ?

        These are erious questions. I worked on this in Hong Kong for many years, and the OECD was constantly saying, “It would be a real shame if Something Bad Happened to that nice economy you got there.”

        1. pgl

          Yea I get Hong Kong and Singapore have real economies as well as attractive tax rates for multinationals. I have done a fair share of transfer pricing work for multinationals with affiliates there.

          BVI is not a real economy beyond tourists and tax lawyers. Try looking up some scandal pulled by Tommy Hilfiger that set up a procurement affiliate run by the good folks in Hong Kong but had all the profits siphoned off to a BVI shell company. Nailed by the Hong Kong tax authorities, followed by the IRS, and eventually even the SEC had to weigh on how their financial auditors lied to outside shareholders.

          There is a lot of evil stuff going on out there and something has to reign this garbage in. BTW – the US is not some saintly prince as we have our stupid FDII, REIT structures, and all sorts of other alphabet soup.

      1. David O'Rear

        I’m all in favor of the OECD cracking down on what OECD companies — or any company in an OECD jurisdiction — does wrong.
        What I object to is folks who have no say (BVI, HK, Singapore, and a host of others) being told that they are now an unpaid (actually, paying) part of OECD law enforcement, because it is too hard to keep track of OECD’s own criminals.

        Minimum tax rates? What’s the justification for telling some government that they have to drain more out of the economy, even if it isn’t needed (have a look at HK or Singapore’s fiscal reserves), just because other governments can’t live within their means?

        1. pgl

          There are other organizations including the UN and World Bank who are opining on these things. But none of these organizations can do more than persuade. The OECD by itself has zero power over national tax authorities. Of course one would hope nations would get together to have a sensible set of rules with respect to international tax.

        2. pgl

          “What’s the justification for telling some government that they have to drain more out of the economy, even if it isn’t needed (have a look at HK or Singapore’s fiscal reserves), just because other governments can’t live within their means?”

          If every multinational set intercompany prices at the arm’s length standard, then this is a fair question. But they clearly do not. I trust you get this.

  14. pgl

    An interesting post on how SNAP benefits have been permanently increased (in the sense of not being high because of a recession – no guarantee that a Republican government takeover could reverse this):


    The chart shows per person benefits adjusted for inflation. I guess the person at the NY Times who made that chart knows how to se Excel to convert a nominal series to real benefits. Maybe that person should call JohnH and give him lessons in how to do this.

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