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Recovering Economy Not Helping Wisconsin Wages, Says Fed Economist

National Growth Mostly Affecting Asset Holders

Nick Rose (CC-BY-NC)

An economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said there are signs the economy is picking up. But, he said, it’s not clear if there will be significant wage gains in the U.S. and Wisconsin.

Economist Rick Mattoon told Madison’s Downtown Rotary Club on Wednesday that the recovery has been uneven and not everyone has benefitted.

“Because the pattern of this recovery has been you’re only doing better if you own assets, particularly stocks,” Mattoon said. “So we want to see Main Street economics work a bit better and see wages improve”

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In 2013, Wisconsin’s median household income was about $52,000, according to federal census numbers. That’s lower than the U.S. as a whole. The state’s median income has been flat or declining since 2007, when it peaked at more than $56,000.

Looking at the lowest paid workers, Mattoon said increasing the minimum wage would help the economy in “a minor way” because those workers tend to spend most of what they earn.

This year 21 states did raise the floor for the lowest paid workers. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker opposes raising the minimum wage.