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Corporate profits recently rose to their pre-recession peak level of 8.3 percent of the economy’s total output, and corporations are sitting on an estimated $2 trillion in excess cash. But wages have barely budged from recessionary growth rates that are less than half the 4 percent gains seen in the expansion of the 2000s.

Although wages are usually slow to recover after a recession, the stark divergence of profits and wages three years after the start of the recovery is unusual for the U.S., economists say.

After deducting expenses from income, companies traditionally have devoted a larger share of what is left — their profits — to workers and a smaller share to shareholders. That’s why analysts expected to see wages go up when profits rebounded to record levels after the recession.

“This is the slowest rate of growth in more than 45 years” for rank-and-file workers, whose hourly wages rose 1.4 percent in the past year, said Keith Hall, senior research fellow at George Mason University. “Wage growth lags well behind inflation, which means a decrease in purchasing power. This is bad news for our much-needed economic growth.”

Even looking at a broader measure of U.S. income, which encompasses the corporate elite and includes income from stock options and bonuses, the picture looks dim.

“Normally, at this point in the business cycle, personal incomes from wages and salaries, as well as personal spending, are growing between 5 percent and 7 percent per year,” said John Canally, an economist at LPL Financial.

Not so this time.

“Personal income — which is derived by adding up all the paychecks earned by all workers throughout the economy — is up by less than 4 percent from a year ago,” he said. No wonder “consumers are struggling.”

Economists attribute the stuck wages mostly to the 8.2 percent unemployment rate. On average across the nation, about three unemployed workers are competing for every job that opens. Moreover, millions of people are underemployed, working part-time or temporary jobs, and are eager to snap up full-time jobs that come available at nearly any wage.

A study by the International Monetary Fund found that the share of national income going into labor in the United States has continued to decline since the recession and has dropped overall by 2 percent since 2008.

The only advanced economies with worse erosions in wages are Greece and Spain. These European countries are experiencing deep recessions with unemployment rates of more than 20 percent as a result of governmental debt crises, the IMF found.

“The recent recovery in the United States appears unusual from a historical perspective,” IMF researcher Florence Jaumotte said, suggesting that “workers’ fear of long-term unemployment has led to more subdued wages.”

Left out of the recovery?

Ms. Jaumotte noted that workers’ share of national income has been on the decline in the U.S. for years and that the drop has accelerated as a result of the recession. Since 2000, workers’ share of income has fallen from nearly 64 percent to about 58 percent.

“Did workers shoulder a larger share of the adjustment during the Great Recession?” she asked. “Have they been left out during the recovery?”

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