U.S. Hiring Intentions at 12-Year High, Most Americans' Incomes Rising

December 14, 2018

The latest ManpowerGroup U.S. Employment Outlook Survey finds the strongest hiring intentions since 2006, while two new reports, including one from the Urban Institute, refute the view that the incomes of most Americans have stagnated for decades.

Strong U.S. hiring is expected at the start of 2019 with the most optimistic employer intentions reported in the transportation and utility, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and wholesale and retail trade industries.

Globally, hiring intentions for the first quarter of 2019 are strongest in Japan, Taiwan, the U.S., Slovenia, Greece, and Hong Kong, while employers report the weakest hiring intentions in Argentina, Switzerland, Italy, Panama, and Spain.

Average U.S incomes have increased despite conventional wisdom they’ve stagnated over the past 20 years, according to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office, which found the average inflation-adjusted household income for the middle fifth of Americans (by income) rose from $56,400 in 2000 to $64,700 in 2015—a 15 percent increase.

Another analysis from the Urban Institute found most Americans have seen small annual income increases that have ultimately accumulated into meaningful gains. The report attaches importance to employer-provided health care benefits, taxes, and welfare program benefits.

A new study by Thomas Piketty, author of The Economics of Inequality, and Emmanuel Saez found that when one accounts for taxes and welfare programs the top 10 percent did not capture all the income gains from 1979 to 2014 and median income actually increased by 33 percent.  Such an approach “provides better and more meaningful numbers,” Saez said.

However, income inequality remains an issue around the world and income gains for many Americans are slower today than in the past.

Going forward: The income stagnation story is likely to stay with us for the next two years because it’s a useful campaign issue.  Only significant wage gains, which are beginning to materialize, will moderate the public’s deep-seated view on this issue—as happened in the late 1990s.