Hello Corporate Profits, Goodbye Worker Pay

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Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

As another giddy corporate earnings season approaches, it’s worth keeping this in mind: Since World War II, there’s never been a worse recovery for jobs and worker pay. And never a better one for corporate profits.

Those are the findings of a new study out from Northeastern University, which looks at where U.S. national growth has settled in this economy. Since the recovery officially began in June 2009, 88% of U.S. growth has gone to corporate profits, the study finds, while wages and salaries have only seen a paltry 1% of that glory.  So where has the growth gone in the past?

During the recovery in the early 90s (in the 6 quarters after the end of the recession), a whopping 50% of U.S. growth went to worker pay, while corporate profits actually declined by 1%. In the recovery that followed the dot-com bust in 2001, jobs and worker pay accounted for 15% of U.S. growth, and 53% went to corporate profits, the study finds. And during the recoveries from the 1981-82 and 1973-75 recessions, jobs and worker pay accounted for roughly 30% of U.S. growth.

(READ: Why don’t jobs and corporate profits match up?)

The question is, without increases in jobs and wages in this recovery, just where has national growth been coming from? Employees have been more productive (roughly 6% more) and have worked longer hours, the study finds. But all that hard work hasn’t added up to much in terms of payoffs, pecuniary or otherwise. Workers have seen a bit of bump from payroll taxes and health and pension benefits, but the real payoffs for the economy have been as follows:

The only major beneficiaries of the recovery have been corporate profits and the stock market and its shareholders. Most holders of savings and money market accounts also are net losers due to declining real interest rates which have been in negative territory for many interest bearing and money market accounts.

If we all lived off of generous stock options, this might not be a problem. Too bad for most Americans that isn’t the case.

Roya Wolverson is a writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @royaclare. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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