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The Washington Post Really Really Hates Markets When It Means Higher Pay for Ordinary Workers

The Washington Post had yet another hysterical piece about how “America’s Severe Trucker Shortage” could undermine the economy. While the piece features the usual complaints from employers about how they can’t get anyone to work for them no matter how much they pay, the data indicate they aren’t trying very hard. Here’s the inflation adjusted average hourly pay for production and non-supervisory workers in the trucking industry since 1990.

Real Hourly Wage: Truck Transportation, Production and Non-Supervisory Workers

truck real pay

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As the figure shows, the real hourly wage for workers in the industry is still more than 10 percent below its 1990 peak. While this would include some workers who are not truckers (for example, the people handling orders), truckers would be the bulk of employees and certainly, if their pay was rising rapidly it would show up in the data.

The piece includes this incredible assertion: “economists say, if competition for truckers pushes up prices so quickly that the country faces uncontrolled inflation, which can easily lead to a recession,” although it doesn’t actually name any economists who say anything like this. There are a bit less than 1.3 million production and non-supervisory workers in the trucking industry. Suppose their pay went up by an average of $20,000 a year, which would be more than a 40 percent increase. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts their average pay currently at just $46,000 a year.)

This huge pay increase would then add $20 billion to costs in the economy, or roughly 0.1 percent of GDP. (It’s a bit less than 10 percent of what we pay our doctors each year.) It would be very interesting to see if the Post could find any economist who would say that this would lead to “uncontrolled inflation.”

This column originally appeared on Beat the Press.

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Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

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