It is getting harder and harder for American workers to make ends meet as rising inflation outpaces pay gains, pushing down inflation-adjusted compensation at a pace almost never seen before.

Adjusted for inflation, hourly compensation fell 2.7 percent in the second quarter, data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the nonfarm business sector showed Tuesday.

Real compensation fell 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. That decline came in part because unadjusted wage gains were very small, just 0.5 percent. The economy was just extremely sluggish, with a low level of demand for labor following the financial crisis and the collapse of the housing bubble. The consumer price index increased 3.3 percent in the quarter.