April 18, 2024

Economix: Inflation? Not in Wages

One of the big questions facing the Federal Reserve is whether the recent rise in oil and food prices will turn into an inflationary spiral. Today’s jobs report suggests that the answer, at least so far, is that there is little reason to worry about such a spiral.

The average hourly wage across the economy — including salaried employees — did not grow at all in March. It was $22.87, just as it had been in February. And from January to February, it rose only a single cent.

Over the last year, hourly wages have grown 1.7 percent. That matches the smallest annual increase since the recession began, in late 2007. In the middle of 2009 — when the economy was still shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month — the annual increase was significantly larger: about 2.5 percent.

It’s all but impossible to have an inflationary spiral if wages are not rising rapidly. Companies may want to increase prices because their energy costs are rising, but if customers don’t have the buying power to pay higher prices, most price increases won’t stick.

On the whole, today’s jobs report was a solid one, showing an acceleration of job gains. (And more on them shortly.) But to the extent that Fed officials are trying to decide whether the bigger risk is an economy that may be too strong — with inflation about to soar — and an economy that may be too weak, the evidence from the job market is quite clear. The economy remains years away from full employment, and wages are barely rising at all.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=df218729be3e2e936ccf98072b6613f4

Speak Your Mind