U.S. Employment Costs Decelerated in Second Quarter

By Eric Morath and Jeffrey Sparshott Features Dow Jones Newswires

A broad gauge of U.S. wages and benefits advanced only modestly this spring, the latest sign of little pressure on labor costs despite what appears to be a tight labor market.

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The employment-cost index for civilian workers increased a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in the second quarter, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.6% gain.

Wages and salaries, which account for 70% of total compensation, rose 0.5% from the prior quarter. Benefits, which includes health coverage, retirement savings and paid leave, advanced 0.6%.

From a year earlier, total compensation rose 2.4%, maintaining a trend in place since early last year. Wages increased 2.3% from a year earlier.

The unemployment rate, 4.4% last month, is near the lowest level in a decade. Wages are generally expected to rise when the supply of available labor is low. But compensation growth has shown little signs of accelerating.

The wage component of the index is calculated differently than the average hourly earnings measure published monthly in the jobs report, but they show a similar pattern. Average hourly earnings for private-sector workers advanced 2.5% in June from a year earlier. Average wages have grown near that pace for the past year and a half.

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Both measures are advancing more slowly than their average pace in the several years before the most recent recession began in late 2007.

The Labor Department's report on the employment cost index can be found at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/eci.toc.htm.

Write to Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com and Jeffrey Sparshott at jeffrey.sparshott@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 28, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)