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Productivity and investments

Unions and minimum wage

Union membership was on the wane for most of the 1947-73 period (at least in part because of the decline in manufacturing), but what had been a gradual decline became a steep drop after the late 1970s. This accelerating decline in union membership occurred even as public-sector unionization (protected by more worker-friendly rules than the private sector) held firm over the past three decades.

The purchasing power of the minimum wage hit a peak in the late 1960s. Since then, policy makers have allowed inflation to erode its purchasing power for long stretches (sometimes a decade or more). Forty years later, even in an economy that has seen productivity rise by more than 80% since the 1960s, the inflation-adjusted value of this wage remains substantially lower than its earlier peak.

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