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Working Americans Get Smaller Slice of Pie
CNBC.com | December 08, 2011 | 06:34 PM EST

Working Americans are now getting the smallest slice of the income pie on record — which, combined with high unemployment, could be behind the slow speed of the economic recovery.

The decline is not a new trend, but it shows up again in last week's release of third-quarter productivity and costs. The labor share — the amount paid to workers instead of businesses and other income-earning entities — was reported to have fallen to 57.1 cents on the dollar for the business sector, its lowest level since it was first reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1947.

J.P. Morgan economist Michael Feroli highlighted the decline in a recent note. He said the pre-2000 average for labor share was 63.9 cents, and if it were still at that level household income would be $780 billion higher, a helpful boost in a period of high unemployment. Even at more recent levels, income would have been $400 billion higher, he says.

Households' net worth, as reported by the Federal Reserve Thursday, isn't doing so great either. IHS Insight economist Gregory Daco points out the third quarter saw the biggest decline since the collapse of Lehman, falling $2.44 trillion as financial assets fell $2.66 trillion. Real estate assets actually rose $102 billion.

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