Hourly Pay Bump Baffles Officials

January 4, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Despite the heavy job losses that have plagued the economy, US workers paychecks got 0.5% fatter in both November and December of 2001, according to the Department of Labor (DoL).

The reason behind the increases remains a mystery. Officials at the DoL say there were no special factors in the data series that explain the increases in average hourly earnings over the two-month period.

In its monthly employment report, the DoL said average hourly earnings increased to a seasonally adjusted $14.61.  The agency noted a similar – and similarly inexplicable phenomenon in the fourth quarter of 2000.

According to a Reuters report, some private economists speculate that the average earnings could have been pushed higher because of a change in the composition of the work force. Lower-paid workers are often the first ones out the door, leaving the better-paid staff to boost the average.