But in 2008, business on the Las Vegas Strip was stalling. In early December, Mr. Bias was laid off from his job. His family moved into a cheaper apartment in a sketchier part of town. He negotiated with his car lender to put off payments for a few months.
Mr. Bias recently landed a new job at the M Resort, where he works from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. as a cook. Even though it’s a non-union job and pays less, he’s grateful he got it. “I was told I beat 10,000 other people who applied for this position,” he says.
Mr. Bias said the family is helping each other, with working relatives taking in laid-off ones.
To the extent that the Second Gilded Age trickled down to workers, well, it’s dried up now.
If I have a beef with this story it’s in the way it uses some statistics. For instance, I think it should have measured how far home prices have fallen from their peak instead of “between last year and this year”?
And after the median price of existing homes rose by 122% in sales between 2000 and 2006 — more than double the national rise of 49% — sale prices fell by 30% between last year and this year.
And this is problematic:
While average wages stagnated throughout much of the country over the past decade, pay in Nevada skyrocketed. Wages in the state grew at nearly double the national rate between 2000 and 2008, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.
Union workers — who account for the bulk of employment along the Las Vegas Strip — saw their pay grow by 12.6% between 2000 and 2008, while union workers nationwide saw an increase of 2.9%, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Nevada’s non-union pay increased by 5.4% in the same period, while wages for all workers in the U.S. increased by 1.6%.
First of all, according to these numbers anyway, Nevada’s wages grew at least triple the national rate, not “nearly double.” Also, I really wish stories would tell you whether they’re using real wages or non-inflation-adjusted ones. I’d guess that these are real wages, but the WSJ should have told us.
But those are relatively minor technical issues. The key thing here is the broader story, and by that measure, the Journal has an excellent one.
There’s even (gasp!) a positive nod to unions!
The union made upward mobility part of the Vegas allure. In Vegas, the union-negotiated salary for a hotel maid is still $14.25 an hour. In contrast, the median wage for the same worker in Orlando is $8.84 an hour; in Phoenix, it’s $9.25, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
$14.25 an hour? You can live on that. $8.84? Not so much.
It’s almost always worth applauding a paper like the Journal for taking a look at the working class, which after all, isn’t its demographic. When it pulls off a story like this, it’s worth a standing O.