Low-wage workers in the United States experienced a drastic pay increase over the course of the last three years.
Over the course of 2019 through 2022, the 10th percentile real hourly wage, which represents the lowest-earning workers, grew 9%. This jump can be attributed to policies passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the tightening labor market from low unemployment, giving workers increased leverage over their employers, according to research from the Economic Policy Institute released on Thursday.
“For so many people, they didn’t actually realize that there might be better opportunities out there,” said Elise Gould, who co-wrote the analysis, according to Axios.
Middle-wage workers, who are between the 40th and 60th percentiles of the wage distribution, did not experience nearly as big a jump as their lower counterparts at only 2%. However, the group did experience growth thanks to several policy investments, including improved unemployment insurance, economic impact payments, and child care tax credits.
However, despite drastic increases in their wages, the lowest-earning workers in the country are still getting paid a very small amount of money. Last year, the 10th percentile hourly wage was only $12.57, not nearly enough for someone to keep a decent standard of living anywhere in the U.S., according to EPI’s calculations.
Aside from the lower earners, the highest earners also rose from 2019 through 2021, with wages for the top 1% and 0.1% increasing to 16.1% and 29.2%, according to Social Security Administration data also analyzed by EPI.
A recent report from WFH Research suggested that people who work on a hybrid schedule make more than those who work entirely remotely or in person. Workers who take a hybrid schedule between work and home make an average of at least $80,000 per year, with the figure increasing based on the number of days they work from home.