Americans are working as hard as ever, but their paychecks aren’t keeping pace with rising inflation. That means trouble for their pocketbooks – and for an economy that’s fueled by their spending. Indeed, after two years of a “jobless recovery” following the 2001 recession, the US economy now faces something equally unsettling: a “wageless recovery.” Several government reports this week tell the story. For the first year since the Great Depression, the personal savings rate went negative in 2005. Pay and benefits, meanwhile, rose just 3.1 percent last year – the lowest rate since 1996 and not enough to outpace a 3.4 percent jump in the consumer price index. Is there any relief in sight? None came Thursday, as the government reported a decline in worker productivity for the closing months of last year, a trend that could limit future wage growth. The outlook isn’t all discouraging, but a four-year-old economic expansion is clearly struggling to maintain its momentum. The reason: Americans are being squeezed from both sides of the household ledger. On the income side, wage growth has been historically low for a period of economic recovery. On the spending side, energy prices and interest […]

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