More Evidence That the Job Market Is Tightening and Wages Are Headed Higher

The U.S. labor market is tightening.
Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

The median U.S. worker enjoyed a pay increase of 3.5 percent year-over-year as of May, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's wage growth tracker.

Wage growth has been accelerating since October, quickening to a pace not seen since January 2009:

WGTROVER Index (Atlanta Fed Wage 2016-06-14 09-53-06
Source: Bloomberg

Wage growth for both women and employees in the services sector also posted fresh cycle highs.

This metric tracks the changes in pay among individual workers through time. Unlike the Bureau of Labor Statistics' average hourly earnings, this indicator is relatively immune from composition effects, which heavily influence average hourly earnings amid the exodus of baby boomers from the work force.

This measure of wage growth is far from the only metric suggesting that the U.S. labor market might be close to full employment.

Meanwhile, the NFIB Small Business Optimism report for May, released on Tuesday morning, indicated that finding quality labor remains one of employers' most vexing problems. The "failure rate" rose over the course of the month, they said, citing anecdotal evidence, as the share of owners who said they couldn't fill a job opening lingered at historically high levels.  

"The sure sign of a tight labor market is one where employers are willing to bid up wages to attract talent. The NFIB has signaled this for a while now," said Neil Dutta, head of U.S. economics at Renaissance Macro Research. "The recent break out in the Atlanta Fed Wage Tracker adds to a growing body of evidence."

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