If You Ever Wondered Whose Side The Federal Reserve Is On...

by: Tim Duy

Catching up with Richmond Federal Reserve Jeffrey Lacker's speech. His dismissal of low wage growth numbers:

Some argue there must be excessive slack in labor markets if wage rates are not accelerating. But real wages are tied to productivity growth, and productivity growth has been slow for several years now. Wage growth in real terms has at least kept pace with productivity increases over that time period, which is perfectly consistent with an economy from which labor market slack has largely dissipated.

Real wage growth is consistent with productivity, thus there is no excess slack in the labor market. If you think this is some crazy hawk-talk, think again. Fed Chair Janet Yellen in July:

The growth rate of output per hour worked in the business sector has averaged about 1‑1/4 percent per year since the recession began in late 2007 and has been essentially flat over the past year. In contrast, annual productivity gains averaged 2-3/4 percent over the decade preceding the Great Recession. I mentioned earlier the sluggish pace of wage gains in recent years, and while I do think that this is evidence of some persisting labor market slack, it also may reflect, at least in part, fairly weak productivity growth.

For more than three decades, the pace of productivity growth has exceed that of real compensation:

PROD090415

Another view from real median weekly earnings:

FRED090415

Real median weekly earnings have grown 8.6% since 1985. Nonfarm output per hour is up 79% over that time. Yet the instant that there is even a glimmer of hope that labor might get an upper hand, the Federal Reserve looks to hold the line on wage growth. It still appears that the Fed's top priority is making sure the cards remain stacked against wage and salary earners.