Wages Are Finally Going Up, Sort of

Wages Are Finally Going Up, Sort of

iStockphoto
By Yuval Rosenberg

Average hourly earnings last month rose by 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the Labor Department said Friday — the fastest wage growth since the recession ended in 2009. The economy added 201,000 jobs in August, marking the 95th straight month of gains, while the unemployment rate held steady at 3.9 percent.

Analysts noted, though, that the welcome wage gains merely kept pace with a leading measure of inflation, meaning that pay increases are largely or entirely being canceled out by higher prices. “The last time unemployment was this low, during the dot-com boom, wage growth was significantly faster — well above 3.5 percent,” The Washington Post’s Heather Long wrote. The White House Council of Economic Advisers this week issued a report arguing that wage gains over the past year have been better than they appear in official statistics.

Number of the Day: $22 Trillion

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The total national debt surpassed $22 trillion on Monday. Total public debt outstanding reached $22,012,840,891,685.32, to be exact. That figure is up by more than $1.3 trillion over the past 12 months and by more than $2 trillion since President Trump took office.

Chart of the Week: The Soaring Cost of Insulin

Client Sanon has her finger pricked for a blood sugar test in the Family Van in Boston
REUTERS/Brian Snyder
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The cost of insulin used to treat Type 1 diabetes nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016, according to an analysis released this week by the Health Care Cost Institute. Researchers found that the average point-of-sale price increased “from $7.80 a day in 2012 to $15 a day in 2016 for someone using an average amount of insulin (60 units per day).” Annual spending per person on insulin rose from $2,864 to $5,705 over the five-year period. And by 2016, insulin costs accounted for nearly a third of all heath care spending for those with Type 1 diabetes (see the chart below), which rose from $12,467 in 2012 to $18,494. 

Chart of the Day: Shutdown Hits Like a Hurricane

An aerial view shows a neighborhood that was flooded after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina
© CHRIS KEANE / Reuters
By Michael Rainey

The partial government shutdown has hit the economy like a hurricane – and not just metaphorically. Analysts at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said Tuesday that the shutdown has now cost the economy about $26 billion, close to the average cost of $27 billion per hurricane calculated by the Congressional Budget Office for storms striking the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. From an economic point of view, it’s basically “a self-imposed natural disaster,” CRFB said. 

Chart of the Week: Lowering Medicare Drug Prices

A growing number of patients are being denied access to newer oral chemotherapy drugs for cancer pills with annual price tags of more than $75,000.
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By Michael Rainey

The U.S. could save billions of dollars a year if Medicare were empowered to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, according to a paper published by JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this week. Researchers compared the prices of the top 50 oral drugs in Medicare Part D to the prices for the same drugs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates its own prices and uses a national formulary. They found that Medicare’s total spending was much higher than it would have been with VA pricing.

In 2016, for example, Medicare Part D spent $32.5 billion on the top 50 drugs but would have spent $18 billion if VA prices were in effect – or roughly 45 percent less. And the savings would likely be larger still, Axios’s Bob Herman said, since the study did not consider high-cost injectable drugs such as insulin.