As Wages Dropped For Most Americans, Number Of People Making More Than $1 Million A Year Rose 20 Percent

Each year, the Social Security Administration puts out data collected from every single W-2 employment form, totaling the nation’s salaries, bonuses, and other compensation added to. Last year’s data, released yesterday, are “in a word, awful,” as Reuters’ David Cay Johnston writes.

The data show that there were fewer jobs last year for most Americans and those jobs that did exist paid less — wages were down to the lowest level in 11 years. Meanwhile, “the number of people making more than $1 million increased by 20 percent over 2009”:

The median paycheck — half made more, half less — fell again in 2010, down 1.2 percent to $26,364. That works out to $507 a week, the lowest level, after adjusting for inflation, since 1999.

The number of Americans with any work fell again last year, down by more than a half million from 2009 to less than 150.4 million. […]


The number of workers making $1 million or more rose to almost 94,000 from 78,000 in 2009. However, that was still below some earlier years, including 2007, when more than 110,000 workers made more than $1 million each.

At the very top, the number of workers making more than $50 million rose in 2010 to 81, up from 72 the year before. But average pay in this group declined $4.5 million to $79.6 million.

This is, of course, in line with lots of other data we have on income inequality. Median wages have been stagnant for years — with wage growth in the last decade worse than it was during the Great Depression — while executive compensation has gone up disproportionately. But the data are perhaps the most detailed look at 2010 and, as Johnston notes, “show why protests like Occupy Wall Street have so quickly gained momentum around the country.”