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Entry-Level Workers See Real-Wage Declines Post-Recession While Others Recovering

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Higher wages have been hard to come by for lower-level workers in the United States the past 10 years, while mid-level and senior-level employees have experienced slight real-wage growth.

A Korn Ferry analysis of U.S. employee pay data shows distinct pay-increase differences in the 10 years since the start of the Great Recession.

For the analysis of inflation-adjusted wage growth from 2008 to 2018, researchers looked at data from more than 5.5 million U.S. employees in nearly 2,000 companies in a wide range of industries.

The study found that adjusted for inflation, clerical or entry-level professionals make on average 2.3% less today than they did in 2008. As professionals move up the corporate ladder, however, their wage prospects have become slightly brighter. When adjusted for inflation, mid-level professionals make 2.4% more today than they did in 2008, and senior managers make about 5.7% more on average today than they did in 2008.

“Even though we’ve seen significant growth in the economy since the recession, salaries have barely kept up with inflation, and in the case of lower-level employees, we have actually seen real-wage decreases since 2008,” said Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner Tom McMullen. “While there are only slight increases for mid-level professionals and senior managers, we do see higher wage growth for those levels due to the demand for specialized, skilled employees.”

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