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Florida's wage picture may be even worse than official numbers suggest

Wake up and good morning. Talk about rolling a boulder uphill. Wage growth in Florida trickled to 1 percent in 2009 and is now believed to be at the lowest level in about 70 years. This standstill comes after wages grew in Florida by 4.6 percent or more between 2004 and 2006, then began slowing in 2007. (Photo: Thousands sought work at a Tampa construction site last year, by John Pendygraft, St. Petersburg Times.)

Bottom line? Growth of wages in Florida, where pay already lags the nation, has now reached its lowest level since the Great Depression, according to the state Agency for Workforce Innovation. A Palm Beach Post story explores this issue here.

The story makes a disturbing point that the wage scene may be worse than we think. Why? Here's the take from Rebecca Rust, chief economist at the state Agency for Workforce Innovation: "Generally, those that are less skilled, less educated, less experienced lose their jobs first, and those are people who are paid a lower wage."

That means, the Post says, that some lower-wage workers whose earnings bring down the average during the boom years aren't figuring into the current numbers because they're not working. Or, put another way, Florida wages would be even lower if these folks were working and their leaner wage numbers added to the mix.

There's not much upside to the Post findings. More than half of U.S. employees who lost a job between 2007 and 2009 have had to take a pay cut to rejoin the workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. About 36 percent took a job that paid 20 percent less than the one they lost. Worse, workers forced to take a job in a recession because of a layoff may find their income stunted for 20 years or more, says the story citing a Columbia University labor economist.

All in all, a rough start for the week. At least we got bin Laden.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times