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Noah Smith

Inflation Has Turned $15 an Hour Wages Into a Setback

Wages have risen this year, but inflation has made that money worth less than before, preventing any meaningful improvement in living standards.

Wage gains are still leaving workers behind.

Wage gains are still leaving workers behind.

Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images 

Many Americans have been delighted to see wages rising since the end of the pandemic. But whether they realize it yet, inflation has already eaten up all of those gains — which highlights the fact that the U.S. economy has no system for making sure that wages keep up with inflation.

In recent months, there have been lots of stories in the media about how wages are rising strongly. And in fact, in dollar terms, that’s true: