Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Real average and aggregate wage growth for July 2019: yellow flag for aggregate wages

- by New Deal democrat

Now that we have the July inflation reading, let’s take a look at real wages.

First of all, nominal average hourly wages in June increased +0.2%, while consumer prices increased +0.3%, meaning real average hourly wages for non-managerial personnel decreased -0.1%. This results in a slight decline of real wages to 97.0% of their all time high in January 1973:

On a YoY basis, real average wages were up +1.5%, a decline from their recent peak growth of 1.9% YoY in February:

Updated through July, real aggregate wages - the total amount of real pay taken home by the middle and working classes - are up 28.7%  from their October 2009 low:

For total wage growth, this expansion remains in third place, behind the 1960s and 1990s, among all post-World War 2 expansions; while the *pace* of wage growth has been the slowest except for the 2000s expansion.

Finally,  two months ago I raised a concern that real aggregate wages had decelerated sharply this year, writing that “real aggregate wage growth has typically decelerated by 1/2 or more from its 12 month peak just at the onset of recessions, although there have been 3 false positives coincident with slowdowns.” Last month that concern  disappeared. As of this month it re-appeared, as YoY growth has declined to 2.2% vs. 4.9% at the beginning of this year, and is actually -0.2% below its level in January:

Still, we have had two similar declines already during this expansion, so I would characterize th is metric as a yellow flag vs. a red flag at this point.