If a group of workers expected their pay to go up last year, it would probably be the pharmacy. While filling hundreds of prescriptions each day, working as a pharmacist became a sleep-deprived, lunch-skipping frenzy, one in which ornery customers did not hesitate to vent their frustration.

"I was stressed all day long about giving immunizations." I would look at the patients and tell them that I couldn't fill their prescriptions.

After adjusting for inflation, pharmacy pay fell nearly 5 percent last year. She said her pay didn't increase in more than four years after she left an independent pharmacy.

Wage growth has been a bright spot for many Americans, with pay rising rapidly for those at the bottom and those at the top. A lot of workers in between have been lagging.

In the two years after February 2020, income for those between the middle and the top tenth of earners grew less than for those in the top 1%.

Middle- and upper-middle-income workers saw their pay gains slow in the 2000s. The labor economist at Harvard said that if you were going to a hedge fund or investment bank, you would have done well. He said that typical college graduates haven't done that well.

The stagnation has moved up the income ladder for those in the top 10 percent.

Inflation may be a temporary factor in some instances. Slow wage growth can point to a longer term shift that renders once sought after jobs less rewarding financially and emotionally.

Suzanne and her husband moved from western Missouri to the eastern part of the state in order to be closer to their family. She was paid less than her previous hourly wage when she was hired as a pharmacy manager at Walgreens.

How few Walgreens employed pharmacy technicians was more striking. For most of the day, Dr. Wommack worked with at least one other pharmacy. She said that Walgreens had the same amount of business, but she was the only pharmacist on duty during her shift, which ran from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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How much is inflation? Your dollar won't go as far tomorrow as it did today due to inflation. The change in prices for everyday goods and services is known as the annual change in prices.

Is there a cause for inflation? It could be due to increased consumer demand. There are developments that have little to do with economic conditions and can cause inflation to rise and fall.

I wonder if inflation is bad. It is dependent on the situation. Moderate price gains can lead to higher wages.

Inflation can affect the stock market. It's difficult for stocks to be affected by rapid inflation. Houses have held their value better than financial assets during inflation booms.

After giving birth to her third child a few months before she took the new job, Dr. Wommack had to stop breastfeeding because she couldn't feed her children enough milk. She said she began taking medication to deal with stress.

A decade ago, the job market was much different. The country faced a pharmacy shortage in the 2000s due to an aging population and a rise in chronic diseases.

ImageSuzanne Wommack said she began taking anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants to cope with stress at work as a pharmacist for Walgreens.
Suzanne Wommack said she began taking anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants to cope with stress at work as a pharmacist for Walgreens.Credit...Whitney Curtis for The New York Times

In the decade that ended in 2007, there was a fivefold increase in graduates from pharmacy programs due to universities ramping upEnrollment in pharmacy programs. Before earning a four-year professional degree, pharmacists must take two or three years of college level prerequisites.

Some of the same factors that have weighed on other middle-class professions have weighed on the market for pharmacy. Health insurers and their competitors were being bought up by large chains.

The consolidation generated large fees for workers at the top of the income ladder, but slowed the growth of retail outlets. Walgreens shut down more than 500 locations after acquiring more than 2,000 drugstores from Rite Aid. Over the next three years, it will close a few hundred more.

Many pharmacists spend less time processing insurance claims because software does it for them, thanks to automation.

External challenges faced by the pharmacy Pharmacy benefit managers are used by insurance companies and employers to negotiate discounts on prescription drugs. Benefit managers have more power over the pharmacy to drive prices down. TheCVS merged with a benefits manager.

William Doucette is a professor of pharmacy at the University of Iowa. The formulas their companies used to allocate labor resulted in low levels of staffing that were difficult to increase, according to several pharmacy workers.

Managers are motivated by bonuses to stay within their targets according to documents provided by a former pharmacy worker. Staffing decisions were made to make sure the safe and accurate filling of prescriptions.

She fainted at work when she was nearly eight months pregnant in May 2021.

She and the baby were unharmed and an adjustment to her blood-pressure medication solved the problem after she lost consciousness. There was no co-worker around to notice that she had hit the deck despite the additional responsibilities of the Pandemic.

The customer asked if anyone was back in the pharmacy. The doctor remembered. I was found on the floor.

If an industry doesn't have enough workers to meet customer demand, they will either hire more or raise wages to get them.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there weren't any of those things last year. There was a decrease in the number of pharmacy jobs in the United States. Median pay fell even without adjusting for inflation because employers didn't raise wages.

A contract signed in March by a union of Chicago-area Walgreens pharmacists reflected a similar approach. The maximum base pay was the same as the previous contract but the starting wage was lowered. The union members get bonuses as well.

The two drugstores said they hired more pharmacists today than they did early in the year, but Walgreens wouldn't give a figure. Both chains have offered signing bonuses to recruit pharmacy workers. According to the Chicago union, Walgreens recently offered to raise pay for 25% of its lowest paid members.

Some economists suggest that affluent workers are willing to accept lower wage growth for the ability to work from home in order to explain the wage stagnation of upper-middle class workers. The wages of high-earning workers may be slower to adjust to inflation than those of low-earning workers.

Marshall Steinbaum, an economist at the University of Utah, said that upper-middle-class workers were not able to claim a larger share of last year's high corporate profits.

Last year, the company said it would close 900 stores, or 10% of its locations. Steven Valiquette said the move was intended to hold down the wage bill. Mr. Valiquette said that it was a good time to take pressure off the franchise. 95 percent of the employees from the stores that were closed byCVS were retained by the company.

During the Pandemic, drugstores have added pharmacy technicians, who help fill prescriptions, instead of pharmacists, so they can replace expensive workers with cheaper ones.

The Walgreens store in Hannibal, Mo., where, Dr. Wommack said, she had almost always been the only pharmacist on duty.Credit...Whitney Curtis for The New York Times

In late 2020, Sarah Knolhoff received an email from management at Walgreens that said they were going to hire several pharmacists in her area to help administer Covid vaccines. The positions didn't come to fruition. A change in state regulations will allow pharmacy technicians to give shots. The technicians were supposed to transition into that role.

The industry added more than 20,000 technicians from 2020 to 2021. The percentage of increase in prescription volume was the same as in the past.

Higher education has seen the replacement of higher-paid workers with lower-paid workers. The shift has left little margin for error at drugstores.

Covid was obtained by the Walgreens pharmacy in Missouri in August 2020. The store closed because there was no backup plan after a colleague couldn't cover the last three days.

Patients are at risk due to understaffing, according to several pharmacist. It was so taxing on the mind. I hoped I don't kill anyone.

Automating routine tasks was one of the changes made by the two drugstores to make it easier for the pharmacy to focus on the most important aspects of their job.

Many contacted pharmacists quit rather than face this dread and take lower paying positions.

No one had regrets about leaving. The doctor said he was 4,000 pounds lighter when he resigned.

She stopped taking the pills shortly after she stopped working at Walgreens.