Pa. logs 5.1% wage rise, but inflation takes a bite into buying power | Friday Morning Coffee

If there’s any comfort amid rising costs, it’s that gas prices appear to be leveling off

July 15, 2022 7:13 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

So here’s the good news: Average weekly wages in the Keystone State saw a year-over-year increase of 5.1 percent last year, and the job market still belongs to workers. But rising prices for what I’ll call the Sesame Street staples — a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter — are eating into those gains, according to new data.

As Axios reports, food prices (which rose by 10.4 percent) helped drive the Consumer Price Index up by 9.1 percent over the last year, for the biggest annual increase since November 1981.

If there’s a bright spot here, it’s that skyrocketing gas prices seem to be leveling off. The average price of a gallon of regular-grade gas dropped by 19 cents over the past two weeks, to an average of $4.61 per-gallon nationally, Axios reports.

Nonetheless, workers still are having trouble stretching their take-home pay. According to a new report by the financial literacy website Smartest Dollar, while nominal wages continue to rise, inflation-adjusted wages have shown signs of decline.

In non-adjusted dollars, average weekly wages rose to $1,339 in the last quarter of 2020, and rose again to $1,418 in the last quarter of 2021, the site’s analysis found. But inflation-adjusted wages decreased by 0.8 percent during the same time period, from $1,429 to $1,418, the analysis showed.

rising wages, by sector
(Source Smartest Dollar).

Some industries also did a better job than others in keeping pace with inflation, the analysis showed. The leisure and hospitality industry, for instance, which bore the brunt of the Great Resignation, has been raising wages quickly to retain workers, the analysis found.

“But for many other sectors of the economy, inflation has wiped out wage gains completely. Fields including manufacturing, construction, and education and health services all saw declines in inflation-adjusted wages from 2020 to 2021,” analysts wrote.

Demonstrators participate in a protest outside of McDonald’s corporate headquarters on January 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The protest was part of a nationwide effort calling for minimum wage to be raised to $15-per-hour (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images).

Wage gains also differed depending on where you live, the analysis found. While all 50 states showed some gains in non-adjusted wages between 2020 and 2021, only 13 saw inflation-adjusted increases, the analysis found.

“And among those, New Hampshire (5.2 percent inflation-adjusted increase) and Florida (2.8 percent) stand out as the only states whose workers experienced inflation-adjusted wage increases above 1 percent from the end of 2020 to the end of 2021,” analysts concluded.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via

In Pennsylvania, Republicans used the inflation numbers as a cudgel against the Biden White House, and to tout their own legislative priorities.

The $45.2 billion budget the GOP-controlled General Assembly sent to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf last week “reflects an investment in Pennsylvania’s greatest asset — our people,” Erica Clayton Wright, a spokesperson for state Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said in a statement.

The GOP’s goal with the fiscal blueprint was to “provide future financially stability with no new taxes or tax increases while making the necessary investments to help Pennsylvanians in the areas of child care, long-term care, small business, and education while easing the pains of policies set in Washington, D.C.,” Clayton Wright said.

(Getty Images).

Our Stuff.
Since the 2020 election, 26 states have enacted, expanded, or increased the severity of 120 election-related criminal penaltiesCapital-Star Democracy Reporter Kira Lerner writes in the first installment of a of a two-part series.

Abortion rights activists gathered in the parking lot outside of the office of one of the top Republicans in the state Legislature on Thursday, where they intended to speak with the lawmaker in person about about GOP-backed efforts to restrict access to abortion. Our summer intern, Jaxon White, has the story.

A first-of-its-kind set of programs designed to support and invest in Pennsylvania’s $132.5 billion agriculture industry has been fully funded for the fourth timeCassie Miller reports.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald could face veto overrides on bills on fracking and oversight of executive hires, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

En la Estrella-Capital: El presupuesto de Pa. agrega dinero para programas de prevención de la violencia con armas de fuego; se dejan sin hacer reformas más grandes. Y el gobernador Tom Wolf firma una orden ejecutiva que protege a las pacientes de otros estados que buscan abortos en Pa.

On our Commentary Page this morning: The Ohio GOP’s attempted erasure of a 10-year-old rape victim is sick and disturbedDavid DeWitt, of our sibling site, the Ohio Capital Journal, writes. And the U.S. Supreme Court is the nation’s new climate czar, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan writes.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, attends the Senate Education Committee Hearing held at the Pennsylvania Capitol on May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, attends the Senate Education Committee Hearing held at the Pennsylvania Capitol on May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

With more Republicans lining up to oppose him, GOP governor hopeful Doug Mastriano is claiming ‘secret’ Democratic support, the Inquirer reports.

Past, misogynistic tweets by Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Austin Davis have been brought to light, the Post-Gazette reports. He’s expressed regret for them, the newspaper reports.

The long-awaited conversion of North 2nd Street in Harrisburg into a two-way road has been delayedPennLive reports.

Shareholders will not receive any money from the sale of Armstrong FlooringLancasterOnline reports.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will investigate York Water’s 31 percent hike, the York Daily Record reports.

Plans for a frequently discussed health bureau for Lehigh County are moving forward again, the Morning Call reports.

The Wyoming Area Police Commission in Luzerne County has appointed its first chief, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Homosexuality finally has been removed from Pennsylvania’s crimes code, now that Gov. Tom Wolf has signed the change into law, WHYY-FM reports.

The state court system says it’s not responsible for county judges banning opioid addiction medication, Spotlight PA reports (via WITF-FM).

GoErie looks at the next act for Erie County’s former district attorney.

More states may legalize psychedelic reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

(Source: @WatchedByBirdos/

What Goes On
1 p.m., Carousel, City Island, Harrisburg: DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joins workers to celebrate Parks & Recreation Professionals Day.

Gov. Tom Wolf is still in Maine for the summer meeting of the National Governors Association — his last as the state’s chief executive.

Heavy Rotation
We’ll go out this week with some new music from Jaime XX. Here’s the extended mix of ‘Let’s Do It Again‘ to get your Friday morning rolling.

Friday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Chelsea have dropped their efforts to sign Christiano Ronaldo away from Premier League rivals Manchester United after meeting with the Portuguese forward’s representatives, the Guardian reports.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.