A full recovery pushes wages up as employers compete to attract and retain workers in a tight labor market.  And yet many national economists have pointed to the meager growth in nominal wages (wages not adjusted for inflation) in the past year as a sign that our nation still has a long way to go in achieving labor market outcomes that deliver broader based benefits to people.

Economists generally see nominal wage growth in the 3.5 to 4 percent range over a sustained period as indicative of a tight labor market.  In April 2019, the Economic Policy Institute reported that the year over year wage growth for private employees was 3.4 percent.  Wage growth has only recently come anywhere close to the level that economists look for, and state level data for North Carolina shows an even bleaker picture.

Nominal wage growth for the average private employee in North Carolina was just 0.8 percent statewide from April 2018 to April 2019.  Only two metropolitan areas, Durham-Chapel Hill and Greenville, hit the target in this period with 4.3 and 5.4 percent nominal wage growth, while three metropolitan areas saw average wages decline over that period.