Friday, January 11, 2019

Real hourly and aggregate wage growth in 2018: very good, thanks to declining gas prices

 - by New Deal democrat

Now that December inflation has been reported as down -0.1%, with YoY consumer inflation a paltry +1.9%, let's update what that means for real wage growth in 2018.

Nominally, wages for nonsupervisory workers grew +0.4% in December. With inflation flat, that means real wages grew +0.5%: 

The good news is that real hourly wages are at their highest level in 45 years, having finally surpassed their levels from the late 1970s. The bad news is that they are nevertheless below their peak level in 1972-73!

On a YoY basis, real wages rose 1.4% for all of 2018:

Since 1999, the change in real wages has almost explusively been determined by the price of gas. Gas prices have fallen over -20% in the last three months, and that has made all the difference in real as opposed to nominal wages.

Finally, real aggregate wages (i.e., the total amount of wages, in real terms, paid to non-managerial workers) have now risen 27.9% from their bottom in October 2009:

The total advance during this expansion, while good, is nevertheless still exceeded by that of  the 1960s (+31.2% since the series began in 1964) and 1990s (+33.8%).

On the other hand, growth in real aggregate wages had averaged 2.5% in this expansion, varying from 1% to 8% depending on what has happened with gas prices:

In 2018, real aggregate wages grew +3.1%, the best level of the past 10 years.

In sum, the growth in both real and nominal wages was probably the best part of the economy in 2018 for average Americans.