The statistic for real earnings provides insight into consumer buying power. It is calculated using average pay, average hours worked and the consumer price index. In the short term, from September to October 2011, an increase in average hourly earnings and a drop in the index increased average weekly earnings by 0.3 percent. However, over the long term, from October 2010 to October 2011, real average hourly earnings declined even as the average hours worked remained the same, leading to a drop in real earnings over the past year.
Workforce Management, January 2012, p. 12-13