Major corporations are making certain they get their money's worth out of each individual employee.
S&P 500 companies made an average $420,000 in revenue per employee last year, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Yet even though that's a full ninth more than in 2007, companies remain hesitant to hire new workers.
With roughly four unemployed workers for every job opening, many Americans have felt the pressure to worker harder and prove their worth. Those millions of unemployed people have additionally given some employers less of a reason to raise worker wages, as economists told HuffPost earlier this year.
Indeed, inflation-adjusted wages fell about 2 percent in 2011. And that downward trend has yet to end, with personal income falling again in February, once adjusted for inflation. For many, wages are stuck, or effectively falling when inflation is taken into account. The percentage of workers reporting no wage change is at its highest level in 30 years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
There we have the conundrum that the country faces: corporate profits hitting record highs, while millions of Americans remain out of work or unable to boost their living standards.
But could the squeeze be nearing its limit? It's possible. Productivity rose just 0.4 percent last year, after spiking 4.0 percent in 2010 and 2.3 percent in 2009, according to the Labor Department. That's partially why corporate profits grew at a dramatically slower pace last year.