In the fourth quarter, U.S. labor costs rose at their slowest rate in a year — a welcome respite for the Federal Reserve in its battle against inflation.
On Wednesday, the Fed is forecasted to raise its policy rate by 25 basis points, further restraining the speed of its rate hikes.
“The Fed’s rate hikes in 2022 were successful at cooling an overheated economy,” said Bill Adams, chief economist at Comerica Bank. “But policymakers want to see a wider margin of slack open up to be confident that the slower inflation in late 2022 becomes the trend.”
According to the Employment Cost Index, labor costs grew 1% last quarter — the smallest advance since the fourth quarter of 2021 and followed a 1.2% gain in the July to September period.
The signs of a tight labor market were reflected in recent reports, with average hourly earnings in the Labor Department’s monthly employment report remaining high.
However, the Conference Board’s consumer survey’s labor market differential, which gauges respondents’ views on the availability of jobs, jumped to 36.9 in January from 34.5 in December, suggesting the job market is still hot.