Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wages slowing over past four years, Reserve Bank confirms

The Reserve Bank has confirmed what most workers already know - their pay packets been stagnating or getting lighter over the past four years.

In the minutes from its most recent meeting, the RBA points to the latest data on enterprise agreements between employers and employees which underscores the low or slow growth of wages.

The RBA says the low growth of wages is "already apparent" in the wage price index contained in the most recent National Accounts.

"Nominal unit labour costs had been unchanged for over four years, as the growth in employee earnings had broadly matched growth in labour productivity," the minutes say.

"Members noted that subdued labour costs had led to low household income growth."

But looking on the bright side, the RBA says the flatlining wages growth has enabled businesses to boost employment "by more than might have been the case otherwise".

The RBA says that while wage growth remained at "quite low levels", low inflation means domestic cost pressures remained subdued.

The reality check on worker pay packets comes in the minutes from the Reserve Bank's April 5 board meeting when the cash rate was kept on hold at the historic low of two percent.

The RBA also notes that in additional to wage growth is low, unemployment had fallen back to 5.8 percent in February. 

Last week, the jobless rate for March fell again to 5.7 percent.

But the RBA appears to be cautious about the outlook for a constantly falling jobless rate.

"Members observed that month-to-month volatility in the labour force was not unusual and that overall the labour market was noticeably stronger than a year earlier."

The RBA has also highlighted employment growth in non-mining sectors which had been "relatively strong" and that there was evidence that non-mining business investment had increased in New South Wales and Victoria.

Citing low inflation "over the next year to two", the RBA board said it was appropriate to "keep monetary policy accommodative."

However the Board said an appreciating Australian dollar could "complicate program" as the economy rebalances from the end of the mining investment boom.

Some economists believe coupled with low inflation, a high Australian dollar would be the trigger for a rate cut to 1.75 percent late in the year.

The Reserve Bank's board next meeting on May 3 which coincides with the decision to bring the Federal Budget forward by a week.

Money markets are factoring in a 15 percent chance of a budget day rate cut with a 50 percent likelihood by the end of the year.

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