Economic pessimism is en vogue in America today, a point not lost on many politicians. "You are going to be so proud of your country, because we’re gonna turn it around, and we’re gonna start winning again,” Donald Trump has promised crowds.
There are, however, reasons to be proud already of the economy’s performance in the last few years. While the U.S. clearly faces some thorny problems with inequality, geographic sorting, and intergenerational mobility, it is nonetheless true that this recovery has been a machine of unshakable consistency, despite being overshadowed by not only the lurid circus of the presidential election, but also by several global eruptions, from the collapse of oil to the vertigo of Venezuelan inflation.
Just a few years ago, several measures of the labor market’s strength had sunk to historic lows. The share of the economy going to workers’ wages fell to its lowest level in half a century in 2012. The labor-force participation rate had fallen to its lowest rate since the 1970s. The inflation-adjusted minimum wage was 30 percent lower than its 1968 peak.
But today, all three measures of labor power are resurgent. Wages as a share of the economy are rising at their second-highest rate since the 1990s and the fourth highest rate since the 1960s. Wages for consistently employed workers are now rising at the highest rate since the recession, according to the Atlanta Fed. For men, wages are actually rising at a higher rate than they were in the middle of the last decade. The minimum wage, too, is staging a comeback. The governors of California and New York signed laws that will raise the statewide pay floor to $15 by early next decade.