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Falling Wages at Factories Squeeze the Middle Class

New York Times (11/21/14) Nelson D. Schwartz; Patricia Cohen

According to a new study by the National Employment Law Project, factory workers today are earning much less than workers in nearly identical positions years ago. In the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, the typical production job in the manufacturing sector paid more than the private sector average, but the typical private sector job has paid more than line work in factories since 2007, with the gap continuing to widen. The average hourly wage for private sector positions was $20.13 in 2013, compared with $19.29 for production jobs.

According to the NELP, a New York-based research and advocacy group that receives some support from organized labor, real wages for manufacturing workers declined 4.4% from 2003 to 2013 in response to temporary hiring practices and a drop in salaries in the auto parts sector—a decrease that was nearly three times that for workers overall. The study relies on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, and the trends cited in the report have been confirmed by independent experts.