Employment and Wages Catching Up with a Roaring U.S. Economy

September 2018

Without a shadow of a doubt, the U.S. economy has been on a rampage in recent months. Growing beyond expectations within multiple economic indicators. Effects of the booming economy are being felt by every person from the average worker to the largest corporations.

Second quarter GDP has been reported at 4.2% at an annualized rate; almost double the Q1 reports. GDP growth has been largely attributed to larger consumer spending and an increase in soy exports for the second quarter. This is the strongest growth rate since Q3 of 2014.

Private domestic business investment has been steadily on the rise following the 2017 tax plan implemented, reaching nearly $596 billion for Q2. Investment as a percentage of the economy is at about the same level of the mid-2000’s boom.

Consumer confidence is on the rise as well, up 5.5 points in August according to the Conference Board. The index now stands at 133.4 (1985 = 100), up from 127.9 in July. The present situation index improved from 166.1 To 172.2 and the expectations index also increased from 102.4 last month to 107.6 this month.

“Consumer confidence increased to its highest level since October 2000 (Index, 135.8), following a modest improvement in July,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved further. Expectations, which had declined in June and July, bounced back in August and continue to suggest solid economic growth for the remainder of 2018. Overall, these historically high confidence levels should continue to support healthy consumer spending in the near-term.”

Unemployment remains at historically low levels for August, unchanged at 3.9%. Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 201,000. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing and mining. A broader measure of unemployment that includes individuals who are unemployed but have given up looking for work fell to 7.4 %, the lowest level since April 2001.

With many indicators pointing towards a rocking economy, one thing has remained a drag on growth; wages. That is starting to change. Average hourly earnings have increased 0.4% in August following a 0.3% increase in July. This has raised annual increases in wages to 2.9%, the largest increase since July 2009. However, this has matched the current rate of inflation (compared to previous months where the rate of inflation outpaced wage growth). If the inflation rate remains steady finishing out Q3 and going into Q4, wage growth is likely to surpass that by the end of 2018.

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