As the markets await some important US data, due out at 1.30pm today- the latest monthly
jobs report-many analysts will be looking beyond the headline unemployment numbers to
something often more important: the average wages data.
The lack of wage growth since the financial crisis over a decade ago isn’t just a US problem;
it’s one that has been an issue across all developed economies, not least here in the UK.
The news earlier this week that Amazon is set to increase warehouse pay has been warmly
received and I must admit; probably not before time.
To my way of thinking, one of the core reasons behind populism has been that lack of wage
growth over the past 10 years, at a time when ultra low interest rates have significantly
increased the value of assets. So if you were rich and owned assets, then you have seen
your wealth increase markedly over that time when the low paid with no assets have fallen
further behind as their wages stagnated- ergo the wealth gap has widened the most in over
50 years at the same time as the so called “Phillips curve” all but disappeared.
Whichever way one cuts that; its not good news, not least for the powers that be, because it
ultimately could have an impact on the modern capitalist system if it continues unabated.
Naturally, there are other reasons for the rise of populism (disruptive technology and
migration to name but two), but for the most part they all boil down to same issue- uneven
The fact that core inflation in the US is currently running at around 2.4% and at about 2.1%
here in the UK; is also a factor because wages simply haven’t even kept up with inflation,
further exasperating the problem. Indeed, in the UK that core inflation rate had been a lot
hotter until most recently, nearer 3%, but looks like its bottomed out now and on the rise
So, I do detect that things are now slowly changing with record low levels of unemployment
in the US and the UK that will surely eventually feed its way into higher wages. When it
comes to wages and inflation though; it often seems like it’s a chicken and egg situation.
Regardless of answering that question; this infers higher global interest rates too which
should have a dampening impact over time on asset prices- namely stocks and property.
The goal for the worlds central banks now; is to somehow manage this reflation without
choking off growth and risking another recession.
So, it’s all a juggling act, but essentially higher wages, above and beyond inflation, should
lead to more spending and hence more growth. This should be a virtuous circle if you like as
long as those central bankers don’t stamp on the brakes too hard.
The one central bank taking a lead in this is the US Federal reserve, but even in the UK we
finally raised rates again, for only the second time in 10 years earlier in the summer,
perhaps for more defensive reasons though? However, the fact that the US is so far ahead
of the pack in this regard is what is underpinning the dollar and whilst some don’t agree with it and certainly the US president doesn’t like it either; its probably a necessary evil that
he may just have to live with until the rest catch up. One thing is for sure though; if that
wealth gap is to narrow, then wages will simply have to rise faster than inflation and
interest rates over the next few years.
Finally, to get a good idea of just how those US interest rates are rising right now, please
take a look a simple chart of US 10 year bonds yields which have moved markedly higher
already this week.
Key Data releases due later today
1.30pm Canadian September unemployment report
1.30pm US September unemployment report