Secretary for the Selective Use of Statistics

Mark Price |

On September 6, Pennsylvania Labor & Industry Secretary Julia K. Hearthway chided the Patriot-News — and, indirectly, the Keystone Research Center — for “selective use of statistics” when the paper (relying on The State of Working Pennsylvania 2013) accurately summarized the poor performance of the Pennsylvania economy from the perspective of most workers.

Incredibly, the Secretary then uses an average wage figure that is unadjusted for inflation to claim that wages increased from 2010 to 2012 and that the Pennsylvania economy is “strong.”

Most of the rise in the figure the Secretary cites is inflation — it’s not an increase in worker buying power. Second, using an average lumps minimum-wage workers and the broad middle class with millionaire bankers and CEOs. Since 2010, CEO pay adjusted for inflation is up by 15% across the United States.

Take out the effects of both inflation and the obscene salary increases for the highest paid, and you find wages for typical (median-wage) Pennsylvania workers fell nearly 3% since 2010.

To be fair, Pennsylvania’s dismal recent wage performance has been the same as the nation’s — not worse. It’s on the jobs and unemployment front that Pennsylvania’s performance has been worse than the nation’s because of misguided state policies since 2010. That’s not selective use of statistics — that’s just the facts.