The rise in wages over the past ten years is certainly a fundamental benefit to the economy and financial market; however, many economists debate whether the significant monetary stimulus that helped accelerate markets over the past decade is an artificial force.
In the aftermath of the 2008 recession, historically low rates for loans to purchase homes and automobiles have enabled prices to rise without significant increases in loan payments. Modest gains in wages over the past decade have been buffered by the low rate environment. Wages, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rose 29% from 2010 to 2019, which equates to roughly 2.9% wage growth per year. The 50-year average for inflation as measure by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is 4%.
Since wages over the past decade have barely kept up with inflation, wage gains have not been as meaningful for workers. Median household income rose from $49,276 in 2010 to $63,688 in 2019. Inflation is a challenge for workers as wages need to keep up and offset higher living expenses. Fortunately, inflation remained tepid during the past decade, offering minimal increases for many expenses. The concern has been that if inflation picks up, the modest rate of wage gains will leave many workers unable to afford higher expenses.
Sources: BLS, Dept. of Labor, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, FRED