wage inflation in the US? …finally?
In my earlier post today, I didn’t mention that in the Employment Situation report from the Labor Department a week ago Friday, the annual rate of growth in wages rose from the 2.5% at which it had been stuck for a very long time, despite declining unemployment, to almost 3%.
Inflation in general is about prices in general increasing. Deflation is when prices in general are actually falling. Deflation is scarier than inflation both because it’s less common/harder to treat and because we have the object lesson of Japan, where a quarter-century of unchecked deflation has moved that country from penthouse to basement among world economic powers.
In developed countries, inflation is always about wages.
The garden variety, which seems to be what the Employment Situation may be signaling, is easy to cure. …a little painful, but easy.
Raise interest rates.
The idea: businesses want to expand. To do that they need more workers. But everyone is already employed somewhere. So firms have to offer big wage boosts to poach workers from rivals. Raising interest rates (eventually) stops that. It increases the cost of expansion and also slows down demand.
Also nipping incipient inflation in the bud prevents consumer behavior from becoming all about defending oneself from it.
who wasn’t expecting this?
For years, economists have been anticipating a rise in inflation. The first (false, then) alarms sounded maybe six years ago.
But, as they say, nothing is ever fully discounted until it happens. In addition, Washington is arguably compounding the problem by enacting fiscal stimulus almost a decade too late–making it more likely that rates will go up sooner and more rapidly than if Washington had done nothing. (Where did the deficit hawks disappear to?)