If it feels like the cost of living is outpacing your take-home pay, you're not imagining things. Wages and salaries ticked up a mere 0.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011, while benefits increased just 0.1 percent according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile prices—especially for food—have been on the rise.
High unemployment and simple supply-and-demand economics are to blame. With such a huge excess supply of available workers—13.9 million Americans remain unemployed according to last Friday's jobs report—companies have no incentive to raise wages. On the other hand, those who have jobs are just happy to be employed, and might not want to risk a steady paycheck to push for a raise.
But on the heels of two consecutive months of positive jobs reports, things are looking up a bit. While it's true the economy will likely be stuck with slow growth for the next several years, experts see demand slowly growing, which could eventually help industries that have been particularly devastated by the recession and disappointing pseudo-recovery.