Despite the challenges of the ongoing economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report highlights some good news for workers in Pennsylvania. The newly released Employment Cost Index (ECI) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2021 shows that U.S. wages rose 4 percent in 2021, likely from growing competition for employers to retain workers and workers seeking better treatment from their employers. The ECI data shows wage growth in all industries, with the highest in the private sector, which ended the final quarter at a 4.5 percent year-over-year increase. In total, 2021 wages and benefits saw a collective 4 percent increase – the highest increase in 20 years.
Although wages are increasing, so too are inflation rates, which are also rising at their highest rates in two decades. The main cause seems to be supply-chain delays brought on from the continuing pandemic. With costs increasing from these delays, as well as demands for more livable wages, some employers are using the situation as an excuse to raise prices, thus offsetting workers’ new found purchasing power. Economists have voiced their concerns that, although wage growth is a positive for workers, there comes with it an increased risk for sustained high inflation.
Governor Wolf has been a steadfast supporter of raising the state’s minimum wage, calling for the general assembly to do so every year he has been in office. The governor’s plan increases the wage floor to $12 per hour on July 1, with annual increases of $0.50 until reaching $15 per hour on July 1, 2028. An estimated 1.5 million people, nearly 25 percent of Pennsylvania workers, would get a boost in pay.
“The fact that Pennsylvania’s minimum wage hasn’t increased in 15 years is an embarrassment,” said Gov. Wolf. “It’s an insult to hardworking Pennsylvanians, and it means businesses and communities in Pennsylvania are getting left behind. Hardworking people can’t wait any longer. I call on Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly to step up and take action on behalf of workers, businesses, and our economy.”