Wages and benefits Surged 0.8 Percent in the First Quarter, Most in a Decade

Employment costs are on the rise. Wages rose 0.9% and benefits rose 0.7% in the first quarter.

The BLS Employment Cost Index shows a jump in wages and benefits in the first quarter.

  • Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.8 percent.
  • Wages and salaries (which make up about 70 percent of compensation costs) increased 0.9 percent, and benefits (which make up the remaining 30 percent of compensation) increased 0.7 percent.

Year-Over-Year ECI

Civilian Workers

  • Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 2.7 percent for the 12-month period ending in March 2018 compared with a compensation costs increase of 2.4 percent in March 2017.
  • Wages and salaries increased 2.7 percent for the 12-month period ending in March 2018 and increased 2.5 percent for the 12-month period ending in March 2017.
  • Benefit costs increased 2.6 percent for the 12-month period ending in March 2018. In March 2017, the increase was 2.2 percent.

Private Industry Workers

  • Compensation costs for private industry workers increased 2.8 percent over the year, a larger increase than the 2.3-percent increase in March 2017.
  • Wages and salaries increased 2.9 percent for the current 12-month period and increased 2.6 percent in March 2017.
  • The cost of benefits rose 2.5 percent for the 12-month period ending in March 2018 and increased 1.9 percent in March 2017.

Health Benefits

​Employer costs for health benefits increased 1.5 percent for the 12-month period ending in March 2018.

Wages and benefits may be rising but unless health care costs are up only 1.5% in the past year, employees are getting hit with increased medical costs.


Bloomberg discusses factors in its report U.S. Private-Sector Wages Lodge Biggest Gain Since 2008.

The latest ECI figures may have also been influenced by several factors. The gauge of employer costs in the first quarter is prone to surprises as it includes year-end bonuses, and the volatility may have been magnified this time by one-time payouts made by companies in response to the Republican-backed tax cuts enacted in December.

Average hourly earnings, a separate monthly measure of private- sector wages that can be influenced by shifts in industry employment and hours worked, has only gradually increased. Growth in worker pay has been slow to accelerate even as the unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest level since 2000.

Bloomberg posted the above chart. It shows year-over-year seasonally adjusted changes.

Generally, year-over-year charts are not seasonally adjusted. Fred does not have the unadjusted data.

Consumer Spending Weakens

Despite the surge in wages and benefits, consumer spending on goods declined 1.1% in the first quarter.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

No. 1-10

There is a big shortage of skilled labour, so it seems that is helping bid up wages a little bit. Input prices are also increasing (fuel, metals, lumber etc). Businesses are pressured to increase prices, but struggle to stay competitive at the same time. It’s not exactly a stagflation environment, but it does seem that slow growth should continue, with some upward pressure on prices.


wow took 10 years for the phillips curve to kick in. could this be because of the minimum wage increases effective 01/01/2018 ? anyways here is an article on the labor participation rate and why it will remain at current levels maybe giving wage increases momentum .


There is no deflation currently Everyone I speak with that owns a business is having to raise wages and cannot find competent workers. The fake propaganda numbers put out by the monetary politburo deliberately understates the true cost of living for the average american household.


"All this "Deflation" doom talk is a distraction. Money Manufacturers don't do deflation." Math does do deflation, however. Inflation and deflation complete a cycle. Burst credit bubbles are deflationary.


Looks like a slow, generally upward trajectory since late 2015. 2.7% is still fairly lame by historical standards.