On Christmas Eve, Santa does not have to visit every country in the world because he is not the only gift bringer. Some children expect elves or trolls, some do not believe in Santa, and some have gifts delivered on a different date. Still, adding together all the countries Santa will visit on the 24th, his task is rather daunting.
Experts have estimated that he covers 50 million square kilometers at nearly 10,000 kilometers per hour to visit perhaps 160 million children during approximately 25 hours. He has to stop, drop off each of his 20 tons of presents, then accelerate again. That speed could create massive aerodynamic heating, sonic booms, and 10 Gs of force.
For all that he does, Santa’s earnings would not come close to the top one percent’s $421,926 threshold.
Santa’s Wage Growth
We can calculate Santa’s annual income because he isn’t the only one who checks everything twice, wraps toys, and drives a sleigh. Since accounting clerks, professional shoppers, and pilots do (sort of ) what Santa does, we can look at what they and other comparable occupations earn.
Combining it all, we wind up with $155,213.
Because, in 2018, Santa took home (to the North Pole) $152,367, he now has an extra $2,846. Sadly, comparing his gain (close to 2.0%), to the U.S. 12-month inflation rate (2.1 percent), we see his spending power has slightly shrunk. According the BLS Inflation Calculator, he would have stayed equal at $155,990.70.
This is how insure.com calculated Santa’s earnings:
Somewhat similarly, most U.S. workers also saw their wages barely budging.
Our Bottom Line: Wage Growth
To find wage gains, we can go to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
In their December jobs report, we are told that, at $28.29, average hourly earnings for private non-farm workers are up by 3.1 percent. However, when we look at real earnings–inflation adjusted–the number drops to 1.1 percent.
The big question is why. Why are earnings up so little when, at 3.5 percent, the unemployment rate is so low? In theory, firms should be boosting wages to keep employees in a tight labor market. And yet, wage growth seems to be decelerating.
- Some hypothesize that wage growth is no longer connected to low unemployment because inflation is so low.
- Another theory is the psychological impact of the Great Recession. It was so sudden and so severe that workers are still worried about keeping a job rather than leaving for more money. Correspondingly, employers give raises more reluctantly.
- A third possibility is the impact of healthcare benefits. Not recorded as a wage, still they add to employers’ costs.
- Also, the supply side could be bigger than we think because the relative size of the prime labor force (ages 25-54) is lower than it was in 2000 and there are many part-timers that could switch to full time jobs.
- And we could add the uncertainty created by the trade war and slowing global growth.
Actually, everywhere I looked, there was a list of possible reasons. The one common thread was that we just don’t know.
But we do know that like many U.S. workers, Santa can complain that his earnings are not rising fast enough.
My sources and more: For a clever analysis of Santa’s deliveries, this BBC More or Less podcast was interesting as was this insure.com estimate of Santa’s salary. Then, for more confirmable data on wages, do go to this BLS summary page, their December jobs report, and CNBC. Finally, if you just want the analysis, this Robert Samuelson column in the Washington Post is excellent.
Please note that this is an entirely revised updated version of our December 24, 2018 post.