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Jobs are key to recovery

We keep being told that the national economy is improving, but for most of us, it doesn’t feel like it.

One big reason? Stagnant wages. Average hourly pay increased just 1.7 percent in 2014. An analysis of Labor Department data by our McClatchy Washington Bureau found that workers with bachelor’s or advanced degrees actually lost ground in 2014.

Usually this far into a recovery, the creation of jobs would boost overall wages. But despite almost 3 million new jobs created last year, that hasn’t happened. The experts’ take is that wages remain depressed because millions of people were never able to get back into the work force.

School boards and other taxing bodies need to take note of what’s going on in the real world when they negotiate future contracts and consider raises for their employees. Wages for public sector workers need to remain in step with what’s happening to the people in the private sector who pay those workers’ salaries.

In addition, this stubborn wage lag should be central to the national conversation about how our country builds opportunity for the poor and middle class. We seem to have lost our way on how to create wealth, and even more basic, a livable wage.

The “solutions” from President Obama have failed to spur economic opportunity and prosperity, and often make matters worse. For instance, Obama during his State of the Union address proposed new taxes on saving and investment, which would penalize the middle class – the very people he professes to want to help.

For the economy to fully recover, average Americans have to feel confident about where they are headed. By that measure, our nation still has much work to do.