Wage inflation is no threat to accommodation by the Federal Reserve which closely watches the employment cost index. The ECI rose a very mild and lower-than-expected 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter. Compared with fourth quarter 2009, the ECI rose 2.0 percent for the second lowest year-on-year fourth-quarter reading ever. The lowest reading ever was plus 1.4 percent in fourth-quarter 2009.
Details show 0.4 percent increases across the board for both wages & salaries and for benefits in both the civilian-worker and private-industry breakdowns. It was not, to say the least, a big pay-raise year for the American worker whose wages & salaries rose only 1.6 percent. This is the second lowest reading ever behind fourth-quarter 2009's plus 1.5 percent. Workers did get a bit bigger boost of 2.9 percent on the benefit side.
A measure of total employee compensation costs, including wages and salaries as well as benefits. The employment cost index (ECI) is the broadest measure of labor costs.
Why Investors Care
The employment cost index measured total compensation costs which include wages and salaries and also benefits. Benefits include vacations, but the primary mover is health insurance premiums.
Data Source: Haver Analytics