Today’s jobs report showed the economy added 214,000 jobs in October, and the unemployment rate edged down slightly to 5.8 percent. While this is a sign that the economy is slowly moving in the right direction, if you look below the headline numbers, it’s obvious that today’s labor market is still far from normal. Private sector nominal average hourly earnings grew 2.0 percent annually in October—consistent with what we’ve seen this year so far.
This lackluster wage growth is a clear indicator that there’s still considerable slack in the labor market. With so many Americans looking for work—and millions more who would be looking for work if job opportunities were stronger—employers simply don’t have to offer wage increases to get and keep the workers they need. Until hiring rates and net job creation pick up and wage growth reaches and stays above the 3.5 percent rate consistent with the Federal Reserve Board’s inflation target of 2 percent and 1.5 percent productivity growth assumption, it’s clear that Fed policymakers should abandon notions of slowing economic growth. The economy may be growing, but not enough for workers to feel the effects in their paychecks.